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Published September 06, 2011, 12:00 AM

Parenting Perspectives: The beating heart of 9/11

Despite not yet being a mom, Sept. 11, 2001, is the day I first felt like one.

By: Tracy Briggs, INFORUM

The other day while working from home, I found myself Googling images from 9/11.

I hadn’t really looked at these photos in years, so I was surprised at the raw emotion I still felt upon seeing them. I could feel my eyes well up and my stomach turn as I relived that day in my mind. My daughters noticed the change in my mood.

“Mom, what’s wrong? What happened to that building?”

That dark day doesn’t seem that long ago, but it was before either one of my children was born. But despite not yet being a mom, Sept. 11, 2001, is the day I first felt like one.

Ten years ago, I was working as the 5 p.m. news anchor at WDAY-TV in Fargo. Like so many of you, I have vivid memories of first hearing the news that a plane had struck the World Trade Center. On a normal day, I would have raced into work. But on that morning, I was scheduled to go in for my first pre-natal doctor’s appointment.

At age 36, I had waited a long time for my first baby, and I just didn’t want to miss that appointment and was so anxious to hear what the doctor had to say.

In what would become the first of many times feeling torn between work and

family, I decided to keep the appointment (despite feeling guilty the entire time). I listened to the radio on my way to the doctor’s office. We still didn’t know exactly what was happening to our nation, but it was growing increasingly dire.

As I sat in the exam room, I heard the radio in the lab next door tell us that one of the World Trade Center towers had just fallen. I remember how surreal it felt to be going about our business like nothing was happening. My doctor continued the exam, rubbing an instrument over my belly. Then I heard a small sound. Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh. I couldn’t believe it. I was hearing my baby’s heartbeat for the first time. Her heartbeat. Such a happy moment on such a sad day.

For the rest of the day, like so many Americans, I felt like I was going through the motions, trying to figure out what to do next. I was sent to downtown Fargo to do “man on the street” interviews.

I felt such empathy for the mom I interviewed who feared her son would be sent off to war.

When I got back to the newsroom, everyone was trying to figure out how to cover all the local angles to the story.

With TV monitors surrounding us, I couldn’t escape the horrifying images and sounds: the plane crashing into the building, the smoke, the panic, the heartbroken families.

At one point, I decided I just had to close my eyes to block it out. As I did, I forced myself to remember that little sound: whoosh, whoosh, whoosh. It made me feel better to think that amid this craziness, life was going on. Despite all of the death and destruction we saw that day, life was not giving up.

At the same time, it brought new fears: What kind of world was I bringing this child into? Were we at war? I grew up during the Cold War, fearing the Russians would attack us. What or who would she be taught to fear?

But mostly the heartbeat brought comfort. In fact, whenever the sadness got to be too much that day, I would close my eyes for just a second or two and think of that sound. Just that sound: whoosh, whoosh, whoosh.

I specifically remember sitting on the news set during a commercial break, closing my eyes, needing to hear that sound before I had to start reading the news again.

As I write this column, I’m sending this baby off to her first day of the fourth grade. Hard to believe it’s been 10 years.

I think back to all the joy – and fatigue – she’s brought me over the years. She was a baby who didn’t sleep well, a toddler who stood her ground and now a child who exudes sweetness. But before she was all of those things, she was the quietest of sounds that managed to drown out the terrifying noise of tragedy.

And that’s something no terrorist can ever defeat.

Tracy Briggs is a mother of two and is an employee of Forum Communications Co.