14 years ago on the morning of September 11, at 8:40 a.m. I was standing in my Florida kitchen making cinnamon rolls. I had a 3 year old and 22 month old underfoot, yanking on my pajamas bottoms for attention, and flinging tupperware out of kitchen cabinets.
The Today Show was on TV.
How odd. A small commuter plane has flown into the side of one of the World Trade Center buildings.
I kept rolling out the dough, sprinkling brown sugar and slathering butter on top, then pushed up the sides and pinched the seams. It was one of the first times I ever made cinnamon rolls from scratch, and I was eager to have moms at playgroup that morning indulge in my efforts. It wasn’t even in the oven yet and the smell was overwhelmingly sweet and utterly divine.
It was almost fall.
A second plane hits the other building. How odd, I thought again.
I pause from slicing the rolled dough, bend down and pick up the baby, and walk towards the TV. I am anxious to turn up the volume and hear the good, simple explanation for these coincidences.
It is not simple.
It is not good.
It is horror.
Lumps form in my throat, my heart begins to race. I call my husband at work and beg him to get near a TV and then come right home.
The little ones are giggling, pulling hair and pushing trains, totally oblivious. Completely and innocently oblivious to the world they are now living in. A very different world. A world that at 8:40 a.m. was spinning ordinarily around, was filled with humdrum workdays and carpools, cups of coffee swallowed on commutes, afternoon grocery stops, and husbands and wives kissing goodbye in doorways and saying to each other, “See you at dinner.”
My first thoughts, after the shock, the terror, the fear, was only this….
What kind of world did I just bring kids into?
What kind of life will these little boys have?
What have I done? My God What. Have. I. Done.
I went on to bring two more sons into this world. By choice. By the choice that you and I and every other mother out there makes every day. We choose faith, hope, and love.
I choose it every day. I choose it even when I don’t want to, even when it feels like the hardest thing to do, I still choose it. I choose it even when the news feeds, the media, the stories of grief, sadness, despair, tragedy, illness, and death spill into my mind, and images play on repeat over and over again, and I want to quit.
I choose faith, hope, and love.
When society tells me there are people who hate, who discriminate, who torture, who bruise, who burn, who even kill for their cause, I don’t listen. I choose not to listen, not to believe, not to trust, not to accept the negativity. I can’t afford to. I have a hopeful world to provide for my children, the same one just 14 years ago I questioned. This world. It’s the only one I’ve got. The only one they’ve got.
It’s a hard thing to not listen. Brutally hard. Some days, just to not sit in a depressive state of “What is wrong with this world?” takes all the energy I can muster. But I have to choose to go on, for if I didn’t, if none of us did, then those lives lost on 9/11 were meaningless. And they are anything but.
I am a better person than I was at 8:40 a.m. 14 years ago. Though I still often doubt the innocence of this world, and I still sometimes let my mind drift into dark places devoid of hope, I keep choosing faith, hope, and love. I choose it for my kids.
I still make cinnamon rolls from scratch every once in a while. And every time I find myself pushing the rolling pin over the dough, I imagine I am flattening out the despair of 14 years ago to give way to rising hope. I inhale the divine aroma and faithfully wait for the magic of the rise, and I know when it’s time, the smell with fill my kitchen with pure wonderfulness.
And the smell will remind me that I am alive, and that to keep living, I still need to keep choosing three things.