It was the first time I saw a doctor run.
It was a Saturday, Sept. 8, 2001, and I was in a delivery room at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City as my wife prepared to give birth. The anesthesiologist had just given her an epidural when the attending OB-GYN burst into the room waving an X-ray.
“We have to do a cesarean,” she said. “Now.”
My wife was loaded on to a gurney and rushed to an operating room. That’s when I saw the doctor sprint past the stretcher to prepare for surgery. It turned out that my wife had an abrupted placenta, a rare occurrence where the placenta, which feeds blood and oxygen to the fetus, suddenly separates from the womb, imperiling both baby and mother. They needed to get the baby out, and fast.
Fortunately, all was well. My son, George — named by me for the great country singer George Jones and by my wife because she always loved the name — came into the world with a bemused look, as if nothing much had happened.
I held him, all cleaned up and wearing a tiny blanket and a cute cap, and later that day mommy and baby were moved to a room, where George met his 2-year-old sister, Lydia
It was an extraordinarily happy time. My wife settled in for a projected five days at the hospital to recover from her surgery and I took Lydia to our apartment. For the next couple of days, now with my mother-in-law accompanying us, we visited my wife and George and prepared the apartment for their return home.
And then came Tuesday, Sept. 11.
I was on my way to my office in Rockefeller Center to clear my desk in anticipation of a few days’ paternity leave. As I entered the building from the subway, there was a crowd gathered around a TV in a barber shop. They were watching smoke pouring from one of the twin towers, a few miles away in Lower Manhattan.
That’s when the second plane went in. All talk of an “accident” evaporated. I rushed upstairs. Then followed a whirlwind of 16-hour days, panicked staffers and fleeting visits with my wife and son.
It was difficult to think straight. I felt devastated about the people downtown, at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania. At the same time, selfishly, I felt angry that Osama bin Laden’s henchmen had spoiled one of the highlights of my life. And sitting at my desk in Rock Center, I worried that such a prominent building could be a target for another attack.
Into what kind of world had we brought our son? The bad news was — and is — clear to see. A stunningly widespread terror network, al-Qaeda, threatened America and the rest of the world. And the threat continues, this time in the form of the Islamic State and its horrifying barbarism.
But there also is plenty of good. Americans have once again proved their resilience. The Pentagon has been rebuilt. Downtown Manhattan has arisen from the ashes. The economy, once in tatters, has made a steady recovery.
And George, who turned 15 on Thursday — and still has that bemused expression — is a strapping 6’2” teenager who plays first base, sings in the school choir and is on the varsity fencing team. He even gets good grades sometimes. Like most teens, 9/11 never crosses his mind, except for a moment of silence observed each year at his school.
For me, though, almost every time I see him, I am reminded of the terrible days that followed his birth. There is still considerable sadness and great shock. For that — I am still angry.
But I also find myself grateful. For George, and the enduring spirit of New Yorkers and right-thinking people everywhere, make me proud of the human race — most of it — and glad that we brought our son to join it.