Suffer the little children to come unto Me ... for of such is the kingdom of God. -- Mark 10:14
This is supposed to be the season for stealing merry midnight glimpses of our children, nestled all snug in their beds, while icicle lights gleam in the windows. But holiday spirits this year hang low, like evergreen boughs after a mighty snowstorm. The shock of Sept. 11 has melted, but not the sorrow. It is difficult to look in on my own blissfully sleeping toddler without thinking of the empty cribs and broken hearts of children whose lives were stolen or shattered by evil terrorists.
Eight children were murdered on hijacked airliners that crashed on Sept. 11. Christine Hanson, 3, was on United Airlines Flight 175 with her parents. She was on her first trip to Disneyland. Christine was brown-eyed and rosy-cheeked and button-nosed. At family meals, she made everyone stand and hold hands while singing the theme song from Barney. During Christine's funeral, mourners re-enacted the scene, singing:
"I love you, you love me ... "
Two other youngsters rode on Christine's flight. Juliana McCourt, 4, was traveling with her mom. The smiling tot with pixie bangs was also on her way to Disneyland. David Brandhorst, 3, was traveling with his adoptive dad and his companion. Blessed with chestnut hair, chubby hands and blue eyes, David liked riding high on every toddler's favorite perch: Daddy's shoulders.
Sisters Zoe Falkenberg, 8, and Dana, 3, accompanied their parents on American Airlines Flight 77. The family was headed to Australia for a two-month adventure. Zoe collected snow globes and Beanie Babies. She and curly-haired Dana took swimming lessons at their local YMCA. A guitarist played "Puff the Magic Dragon" at the girls' funeral.
Also onboard Flight 77: Bernard Brown Jr., 11; Rodney Dickens, 11; and Asia Cottom, 11, all Washington, D.C., public schoolchildren traveling with their teachers on an educational trip. Bernard was a Michael Jordan fan. Rodney loved Pokemon. Asia liked Tweety Bird.
Along with Christine, Juliana, David, Zoe, Dana, Bernard, Rodney and
Asia, there were an unknown number of unborn lives taken on Sept. 11. These littlest victims, rarely mentioned, died in the wombs of mothers fatally trapped in smoke-filled staircases and crumbling offices at the World Trade Center.
Patricia A. Massari, 25, had just learned she was pregnant on the morning of the attack. She dialed her husband at 8:40 am from the 98th floor of Tower One to share the results of a pregnancy test. Massari was on the phone when the plane hit. Helen Crossin-Kittle, 34, was a Cantor Fitzgerald employee on the 103rd floor of Tower One. She was five months pregnant. Jennifer Dorsey-Howley, 34, worked at AON insurance. She was six months pregnant and was reportedly walking up a staircase in Tower Two when the plane hit.
Deanna Galante, 32, worked on the 106th floor of Tower One. She was eight months pregnant with her first child. "We bought baby clothes and diapers," her husband said. "We had ordered Disney books. One came in the mail after this happened." Krystine Bordenabe, 33, worked on the 69th floor of Tower Two. She was eight months pregnant and planned to be a stay-at-home mom. On her baby's ultrasound photos, she wrote: "The baby's OK, everything's great!"
Thousands of children were left behind. Jake Siller, 2, clutches a photo of his firefighter Dad and asks: "Daddy home? Daddy home?" When told that her father died in the attacks, Cara Colasanti, 4, replied: "Maybe Daddy fainted." Robert Shay, 5, stuck stars in his windows "so my daddy can see where I am."
And every night, Matthew, 9; Erin, 6; Mark 4; and Grace Brady, 2, recite a prayer taught to them by their father, a business executive who died at Ground Zero: "Thank you, Jesus, for the love you bring. Thank you, Jesus, for everything."
The children of Sept. 11, angels on loan from God, will not have suffered in vain if we take their divine message to heart. Be grateful every single day of the year for the gift of life -- for warm cheeks and baby-soft skin, joyous giggles and piggy toes, butterfly kisses, silly songs, wide eyes all aglow, and the dancing sugarplum dreams of innocents.