17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Stroller

When my son was born, I had a fancy stroller waiting for him for our big outings in the city. It was reasonably sized, not a behemoth, but not one of those dainty little umbrella strollers either. It had a nice padded seat, full recline, a generous sunshade, even shocks. And it carried him well for many months.

But as he grew older and heavier, it grew a little much for me to be lugging up subway stairs. And it was a little tough to maneuver through those tiny NYC stores. So Chloe, our resident stroller expert, found me a great deal on a beautiful stroller on ebay. And when Max was about 10 months old, I folded up that first stroller for the last time.

It sat in the foyer of our apartment forever, collecting dust. I would pass it each time I entered or left the apartment, and knew that logically, it was time for me to sell it or give it away. But I just couldn’t. Not for sentimental reasons, though. I wish it was only that. It was fear that made me hold on to that stroller, a fear that is a part of my life and a part of who I am as a mom, and that doesn’t seem to be going away.

On September 11, 2001, I was on the subway on my way to work when the planes hit the towers. I saw the smoke from the elevated track in Queens before we went underground into Manhattan. I figure we were probably one of the last subways in, because a lot of announcements and confusion was happening on my ride. I just figured it was the regular subway delay problems, because you can never understand those announcements anyway! But when I came above ground in SoHo (NYC neighborhood about 20 blocks up from the towers) there were people walking north up the streets, away from the area. And when I got into my office, I could see from my desk through the huge floor-to-ceiling windows the towers on fire. I watched them collapse from my office and waited there for many hours, wondering if I should try to get home or not. When I finally left, I walked and managed to get a subway and bus home, and then spent the next two days on my couch, crying and imagining how I would get out of the city if I needed to – what I would take, where I would walk to. I’m talking about imagining myself alone, hiking for hundreds of miles, sleeping in the bushes on the side of the road at night. I was imagining that anarchy was imminent, and I needed to know that I had a plan to save myself. For months afterward, I’d find myself in random places – a theatre during a play, at the grocery store, in church – wondering how someone would let us know it had happened in this situation. Would someone come onstage and say something? Would they come over the loudspeaker in the grocery store? Broadcast CNN on the closed-circuit security TVs?

I didn’t talk with many people about my fears, because I knew they’d think I was nuts. I couldn’t really talk to my husband about them, he hadn’t been in NYC and didn’t really understand what I had gone through. And I even belittled my own experience – sure, I had watched it all through my office window, but I hadn’t actually been in the buildings, etc. - other people had been through worse. As time passed and life continued, I managed to release some of these daily thoughts and return myself to “normal”.

In August of 2003, I went in to show off my 6-week-old son at my office in SoHo. My husband had decided to come in with me, so we didn’t take the stroller, just the Bjorn that DH would carry Max in on the subway. DH went to do some shopping while I went to show off my new little man. And as we were finishing up our visit, the power went out. Yep, it was the big east-coast blackout of 2003. Now one of the many blessings that occurred during this experience is that I was able to get a call through to my parents very early on (a lot of phone systems were out because of the power) and they reassured me that it wasn’t terrorism, so at least I wasn’t worried about that. But I did have to find my husband and walk the many miles home in the August heat and humidity with a 6-week old. One of the memories I will never forget is sitting in the middle of the sidewalk on the Queens side of the 59th St. Bridge, breastfeeding Max while the sunset disappeared and people swarmed by us.

So back to that stroller. Yes, as time had passed I had gotten over many of my daily obsessions and fears, but they weren’t gone for good. I still had those visions of me, alone, hiking out of NYC to escape whatever evil was on its way, and suddenly I had a small helpless infant that I had to take care of. That stroller, though too bulky and heavy for the subways, was for me a life support system for my little man. He could ride in it, sleep in it. I could carry a much heavier load in it. The wheels were larger and more rugged, ready to take on the task of the grand hike. And so even though the stroller was never used, it was my escape plan, my safety net.

So why am I writing this now? Well, first of all, the stroller is still sitting in my new garage here in Vermont. I still can’t get rid of it. Secondly, I was reminded of my fears when I got Max’s enrollment packet for preschool last week. It included all kinds of forms and information, but the one that drew my attention was the emergency plan. Here was a 4 level plan that included multiple evacuation scenarios (if they had to leave the building, the immediate area, the town, the region, etc.) and contact information for a whole host of people. And I got that same sick feeling in my gut and found myself crying in my kitchen reading it. I started wondering if they had enough food and water stored at the school, if they really understood that THIS COULD HAPPEN. I could hear a little hysterical voice in my head talking the crazy talk at the next parent board meeting, knowing that no one there would understand why I was such a loon when it came to this.

My hope is that I can use this experience for good. That I can take the fear that I have and ignore the parts that bring on the crazy talk, and focus on the parts that make me plan. That I can have my food storage, my evacuation plan, a family contact plan, etc. That I can do that without instilling a fear in my children. I think I can do it. I hope I can do it.


  • Wow,
    I really feel what you just wrote! I don't want to turn this into a "where were you on 9/11" but even though I was not THERE, it really affected me, too.
    Being pregnant with my first child, I was on 24/7 complete bedrest when it happened. I watched it happen live in my bedroom, and continiued to obsessively watch every little thing on it for the next month until my water broke and I had my baby 3 & 1/2 weeks early. I am sure it was also all those pregnancy hormones rolling around in me but all I can remember doing was crying. I cried so much and felt so helpless as well. It was a shock to our world as we knew it, and I had been in those towers before, I knew what they looked like.
    Having had the experiences that you have in the way you have, it makes perfect sense to feel the way you do. I think opening up, sharing, as cheesy as it may sound, is healthy, like a support group/testimony meeting is cleansing and helps you gather your thoughts, and maybe come to terms with your fears. One thing I do know is that bottled emotions do more harm than good! And know that many people share in somewhat irrational fears and confronting them is a first step to facing and overcoming!
    posted by Blogger Rachel H at 4/11/2006 08:16:00 PM  

  • What a story. Thanks for sharing. Really very powerful.

    I would absolutely bring up the questions you have about food and water at the school, etc. , and if you are worried about it making you sound like a crazy lady, just say something along the lines of "bear with me, I was in NYC on 9/11, so I have issues with emergencies." If that doesn't change every look from "what is this crazy lady doing, wasting our time" into "yeah, emergencies happen, we need to protect our kids" then you need to pick a different school.

    Also, it's a good reminder that stuff like this (what a bad phrase - is anything LIKE sept 11?) stays with us for much longer than anyone imagines or thinks about. Here it is, 5 years later, and you still have that stroller, and I am not advocating getting rid of it.
    posted by Blogger The Wiz at 4/11/2006 09:30:00 PM  

  • I would still have that stroller too, if I had been there. It was hard enough having a 12 day old baby on the other coast- I know what went through my mind, and I was 3000 miles away. Your concerns are legitimate.

    I second what the Wiz said- make your feelings known, and why, and if people look at you like you're crazy, find another school. We were all changed by what happened- and rightly so. Five years later- a blink of an eye- how we felt that day isn't ever going to go away. You're ok for acknowledging it.

    Thanks for sharing something so very personal. Keep the stroller.
    posted by Blogger Tracy M at 4/11/2006 09:53:00 PM  

  • Wow, make me cry why don't you?

    I didn't have nearly as tragic or scary experience. But I still have the same sort of irrational fears, they just creep up on you. I think it is totally rational to want to be prepared and to want the people who care for your children to be prepared. I wake up in the night in a cold sweat worried about what to do if there was a fire or an earthquake. How would I get to my little girl, how could I protect her. And now that I'm pregnant, how I'm going to protect them both. It's hard. It's hard to calm the irrational fears, and it's hard not to wonder if you will ever need to worry about them.

    The way I've come to deal is just to have a plan for the things you can plan on (like have food storage, kits in the car in case they break down . . .) As for everything else, you've just got to hope and pray you can deal with it when it comes.

    It's not a fix-all solution, but it lets me sleep most nights.
    posted by Blogger Trivial Mom at 4/11/2006 10:02:00 PM  

  • I haven't been able to bring myself to comment on this post until now. It's too beautifully written and raw and it hurts my heart to read it. Marian and me have an unshakeable 9/11 bond - whenever one of us talks about that day the other one breaks.

    I too was in NYC on 9/11, watched the towers fall from the streets, walked home and was permanately altered...but that's another post altogether. We had lost a pregnancy 3 weeks before and I remember thinking on that awful day how grateful I was not to be a mother.

    When my son was 3 weeks old I awoke one day and realized I didn't have an emergancy bag for him. I worked all day to repack our 72 hour kits and fit him into our "emergancy life" as well. I realized while I was doing it that it was because of my experience on 9/11. I guess I'm glad that instead of being paralyzed by it I made some 72 hour kits.

    When DS was 6 months old we had the historic blackout of 2003 and as I walked through my neighborhood with him in my bjorn my mind switched back into 9/11 survival mode. "I need batteries. I need to find DH. I need to find Marian. Do I have enough formula? Where is the car so that I can escape?" Of course it was just a blackout, but we didn't know if wasn't a terrorist attack for about an hour. It was a long hour...especially with a baby.

    I have a very hard time talking about 9/11. I'm crying even as I'm typing this, and I recognize that is not normal. I'm a completely different person because of what I went through that day. A big part of me hates that...and a small part of me is OK with how it has shaped me.

    So thank you for writing it, Marian. I'm proud of you for doing it - I know it was hard for you.
    posted by Blogger chloe at 4/12/2006 08:29:00 PM  

  • I feel like Chloe--I've been wanting to respond, but haven't been able to focus the emotion into language to do it. Such a moving post Marian. Thank you for putting this in words.

    I was 8 months pregnant on Sept 11, and dh was in NYC that day. I was at my office and watched the whole thing on big screen tv's in our lobby. I just remember sobbing and holding my (huge) belly, and then trying to get a hold of dh to make sure he was ok. He got out of there by the end of the day, but for the next 6 months, I was obsessed with the 9/11 mothers who were pregnant and lost their husbands and kept thinking about how it could have been me. There was a People magazine dedicated to them--their stories, photos of the moms with their babies, but no dads. I turned those pages over and over, convulsed by thoughts of how my new formed family that included a baby, and was working pretty well with both mom and dad, could be devastated in an instant.

    Right after Katrina, Heather wrote a post on MMW about how mothers are physically limited by their children. She mentioned scriptural references regarding the difficulties faced by women and children during war. That post has stuck with me I've wondered over and over how I could manage to take care of my two small kids in an emergency, when I can't even get them easily and quickly out the door by myself for church.

    Chloe, I love how that you took your fear and did something constructive with it by expanding your 72 hour kit to include provisions for a new baby. It inspires me to make better and more concrete preparation for emergencies.
    posted by Blogger Michelle at 4/13/2006 06:54:00 AM  

  • chloe, remember carrie and I walked to your house to make sure you were ok that day? We were crazy to be out in the dark with our kids in strollers and a scared dog. Glad we made it home without being robbed or worse.

    michelle, I felt the same way that day. I lived about 10 miles from the pentagon, and the week before I had closed a show that was playing near Capitol Hill. And just a few days before my husband was in NYC interviewing.

    I was half way through my pregnancy, and so the story about those mothers totally caught my eye, and I just read their articles and watched their tv shows imagining my life without my dh. On 9/11 I just sat in my apt. and watched CNN and wondered how I could bring a child into THIS world?

    And I need to prepare for an emergency. I recently bought a flashlight that works with 3 different types of batteries, but I don't think that's gonna cut it.

    Thanks for the post MARIAN.
    posted by Blogger Kage at 4/13/2006 10:25:00 AM  

  • Thank you guys for sharing your 9/11 experiences...I always wondered what you guys were doing and how it has affected your lives, especially as mothers...but there was never a good moment to ask (we were in portland on that day and moved to NYC a few months after...)

    Marian, your post is an amazing read, but I'm truly sorry you had to experience firsthand the horrible tragedy...not to mention the emotional aftermath.
    Your fears were/are completely justified. I remember feeling that sense of anarchy....IN PORTLAND....a world away from the real drama. I remember picturing terrorists invading my neighborhood in my mind. THAT is unjustified paranoia. I'm sure that my fears and paranoia would be yours X 1000 had we actually been in NYC.
    posted by Blogger Jen at 4/13/2006 11:26:00 AM  

  • Kage, of course I remember you and Carrie showing up on my doorstep that hot night in 2003. We actually had fun! I remember we ate (and fed the kids) all of my fudge pops in the freezer since they were going to go bad. And I think all the kids were just in diapers. It was a wild night but I have happier memories of it because of my tales girls.
    posted by Blogger chloe at 4/13/2006 11:52:00 AM  

  • Add me to the list who has wanted to comment, but can't seem to get the words out.

    Your thoughts are everything I have thought. Your feelings are everything I have felt. I also watched the towers fall from my office window and I feel like my life was forever changed at that moment. I just always hope that someday I will be able to get over the fear that has taken up residence in mind and in my soul. It's hard to shake. But I hope to always keep the valuable perspective that the experience brought me.

    I still have this $10 Razor scooter that I picked up in Hong Kong six years ago. I have never ridden it. I have moved it across town and across the country. Why do I still have it? Because after 9/11, it was part of my evacuation plan. We didn't have a car in NYC, so the plan was for DH to strap on his roller blades, and I would ride the scooter (I'm no good at rollerblading). When Princess came along 11 months later, she and the Bjorn were added into the plan. I have to say that my anxiety has decreased since moving from NYC. I always had this worry of being trapped. It was mostly irrational but it was real. But now that we are here in CA, I still can't get rid of that stupid scooter.

    My new ward had a Emergency Prep Enrichment night in Feb. THey asked people to bring their 72 hour kits to share. I dug out mine that I had put together soon after 9/11. It was hard to open it and look at all the contents because it brought back all the raw emotions I had while putting it together almost five years ago.

    Sorry to be so incongruous. It was sort of like emotional throw-up. Yuck.

    Thanks for sharing Marian
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 4/14/2006 10:04:00 AM  

  • Since we're carefully talking about 9/11, I have a question for you all. There are two movies slated to come out shortly about 9/11. One is titled "The World Trade Center" and is directed by Oliver Stone (go to www.imdb.com) for more info.

    Is it too soon? Will it ever be the right time? For those of us who were in NYC on 9/11 will we ever be able to watch a movie about that day?

    For me the answer is a big fat no. I'm not contributing my $10 to watch a flick about one of the worst days of my life and I can't imagine how other Americans would feel differently. But if a movies are already being made perhaps there is an audience for this.

    What do you think?
    posted by Blogger chloe at 4/14/2006 11:46:00 AM  

  • Marian,
    I think it's great that you let out a little steam about your experiences. I've known you for years and I've always been afraid to ask. All I know is that I was watching the tower fall on TV with a bowl of cereal in front of me and my first thought was to call my mom to find out where you worked. I had saved all the emails we traded that day. I'm so glad to hear your experience. You are so brave and strong. It's hard to feel safe anymore, but I think it's a feeling worth fighting for. Being prepared is good medicine. So is sharing with your friends. Your father in law is a good example of what happens to you if you wait 40 years to deal with trauma in your life. You are smart to work through it now and realize, it will always be a part of you. I think you'll use what you are feeling to become stronger.
    Take care.
    posted by Anonymous Joyous at 4/14/2006 04:50:00 PM  

  • Thanks to everyone who wrote and shared their experiences and comfort. At first I was worried that no one was reading the post or thought it was awful, since there were so few comments, but it's... well good isn't the word, I guess comforting to know that I'm not the only one out there that considers this a painful topic.

    Regarding chloe's last question on the 9/11 movies that are coming out. It's probably obvious from my admittedly fragile state that I will NOT being going to see these movies. But unfortunately it's not going to be that easy to avoid them. Last night I was watching tv (wooo hooo Alias is back!!!) and was not prepared for a "United Flight 93" commercial. Let's just say I didn't handle it well. I felt like someone walked into my living room and smacked me in the face. I personally feel that it's too soon, but I would probably say that NEVER is too soon. I wonder if people who lived through Pearl Harbor felt the same way about "From Here to Eternity"?
    posted by Blogger marian at 4/20/2006 11:27:00 AM  

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