Christine Pisera Naman, who birthed a son on September 11, 2001, honored all babies born that fateful day by authoring a commemorative pictorial book that featured her son and forty-nine other babies—one from every State.
Each child was honored with a two-page spread: one page provided a close-up photo; the other page offered well-wishes, expressed in the forms of “hopes.”
What I especially liked about the “hopes” was that they chronicled the freedom children have to be innocently, spontaneously, joyfully themselves: jumping in rain puddles, wishing upon stars, catching snowflakes on their tongues, carving jack-o-lanterns, blowing bubbles, running through the grass barefooted, coloring outside the lines, doing somersaults, wishing upon stars, making snow angels, putting teeth under their pillows, waiting for the tooth fairy–and so much more.
The title of the book speaks to the gift that the birth of those fifty children represented in the face of 9/11: Faces of Hope. Hope in the midst of death and pain. Hope in response to a temptation to succumb to feelings of vulnerability and hopelessness. Hope, embodied as the fruit of love, standing strong in defiance of hatred and violence.
And as a teacher-librarian, when I think of embodying hope, I think of the words of Emily Dickinson’s definitional poem.
Hope is the thing with feathers
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,
And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.
I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.
Inasmuch as the poem captures the mystery, majesty, humility, and tenacity of hope in the face of adversity, America’s united, optimistic response to the hatred, evil, and violence of the terrorism that struck on September 11, it seems to me, makes it appear as if Dickinson wrote this poem in advance commentary.
Faces of hope. That’s what the babies born on 9/11 were. That’s what babies always are. And speechless as they are, their every coo and babble communicate an optimism that circumstances–no matter how adverse–dare not silence.
Perhaps that is why the words of poet Carl Sandburg, included on the back cover of Faces of Hope seem apropos: “A baby is God’s opinion that the world should go on.”
Now, fourteen years later, inspired by the hope embodied by those babies who were born that fateful day, as well as by those babies who have continued to be born each day since–America has gone on.
And for that unique, living gift that babies are, for the gift of themselves that validates life and love and hope, the sum total cost of having and loving babies in return—no matter how much—is comparably, insignificantly small.
In the context of 9/11, how do Emily Dickinson’s words, as well as Carl Sandburg’s, speak to you of hope?
This is one of Dickinson’s poems that I hold dear, for it is true even in the the midst of chaos and rubble there is that thing with feathers.
Thank you for sharing a bit of hope today.
Thank you so very much for reading the post, and sharing your insights. Am so very glad the poem rekindled memories of Dickinson’s words that stretch across time and place to give us hope on this special day for all of us. God bless you! Thanks again so much.
HOPE is a powerhouse word, isn’t it? Thank you for sharing about the 9/11 babies photo book. Not much more hopeful than youth and innocence. Happy Poetry Friday!
Yes! HOPE–or lack of it–is a powerful force for good (or evil, with the lack of it, I suppose). I love poetry and am feeling very blessed on this blessed day to have been able to share about the 9/11 Babies photo book. What I chose not to get into in that post was the unfortunate reason I learned about the book. One of the babies featured in the book grew up to lose her life in the AZ shooting a few years ago. Sadness and hope commingled. Thanks again for taking time to welcome my first Poetry Friday post. I look forward to enjoying all the other posts that remember Sept. 11th. God bless!
Thanks for sharing about this book, new to me, and for that lovely quote by Sandburg. I believe we always must go on, otherwise the bad would claim victory.
Amen!!! I admit that was tough. Patriotically, I knew I needed to get back on a plane, but the first flight was scary for me, as someone who was a nervous flyer pre-attacks. …Yes! Sandburg’s is a lovely quote. I looked to see if it had been in a verse in a poem, but apparently it is a standalone poetic thought. I checked to see if there has been a follow-up book; there was a 10th anniversary edition, which I promptly ordered yesterday, wishing I had thought to do that sooner. Like you, I hadn’t heard about the original book when it first published. I learned about it in the wake of the AZ shooting which claimed the life of one the babies who had been featured in the book, Christina Taylor(-Green), who had represented Maryland. So sad that the evil and violence continues. If only more love-ly poetry filled our mind, and lives and hearts!
This sounds like a fabulous book. Thanks for a heartfelt and thoughtful post. You ask what thoughts arise from the quotes you give. One is the old cliche: “Where there’s life, there’s hope.” Perhaps too, the thought that every generation has a chance to try again, even though earth’s history doesn’t give much support to us humans really learning these lessons of peace and getting along.
Your feedback always makes me smile because you always share something I hadn’t thought to think! Thank you! Thank you for taking time to read the post and to respond with your insights. Am glad you thought the book fantastic…It always is interesting to me when I already “know” a book, have it in hand, and come to the writing with a perspective in mind, to take time to see (via Amazon, in this case) what other readers have commented about the book. Some criticized the quality of the black and white photos, some questioned whether the book was a money-making venture taking advantage of the topic, some thought it was too light-weight superficial, and one person felt betrayed by the title’s expectation that all babies born on that day would be included by name–what use would the book be to her grandchild if not named in the book. So interesting. I’m with you. The mission and the message of the book make it fantastic. I applaud the initiative and ingenuity of the author for undertaking the work; for reaching out to families in every State of the Nation. I look forward to reading the sequel (10th anniversary, as well as subsequent ones). Thank you! If it were not for your invitation, I would not have written this post; would not have participated in Poetry Friday. What a blessing you extended. Thank you!
Loved learning about this books with its faces of hope–and how is it possible that these babies who were brought hope amidst the chaos and sorrow are 14? Thank you for sharing this and Emily’s hopeful poem.
Thank you for taking time to read and to share what’s been on my mind, too! It is hard to believe, and sad to know that at least one of them died too soon–the little girl (originally representing Maryland) who died in the AZ shooting. So sad!..We need Emily’s hope.
Beautiful post. Thanks for introducing us to this book and to yourselves. Welcome to Poetry Friday.
Thank you so very much! It was a great honor and privilege to do a first post on 9/11; almost doesn’t seem “right” on this day to have this much joy–the joy sharing poetry brings. Your warm welcome is appreciated very much. God bless you! Hope you had a peaceful day of remembrance. Am looking forward to many more Poetry Fridays. Whoever thought of/initiated the idea is owed my debt of gratitude! When it comes to reading and thinking in poetry, I just can’t get enough!
Lovely post, and this sounds like a beautiful book. “And sweetest in the gale is heard…” That’s my favorite line. I have a wonderful niece, Lily, whose birthday is today (though she was born after 2001), and her birth is always the call of hopeful bird in the storm of 9/11.
Your comment just gave me goosebumps. Thank you so much for taking time to read the post and to share your beautiful thoughts. Happy birthday to your niece Lily; may she grow surrounded/inspired by all your favorite verses. I have (hate) to admit, the only line I hear in my head is the first. Thank you for calling my attention to your favorite line. You’ve inspired me to take a closer, more reflective appreciation of the entire poem. Thank you! (BTW, there was a 10th anniversary sequel to the first book, just in case your niece was born in 2011. Might be a nice remembrance for her.)
Hehehe–well, the first line is the only one I remember all the time, too! It was lovely to pause and read the whole poem:>)
Hard to believe it’s time in less than 24 hrs. for another PF!!! …If it’s convenient, please let me know if tomorrow’s poem is known to you by the first line, too. (This time I know the last line, too. Guess I didn’t have it permanently memorized…) “See” you tomorrow! Take care!
Welcome to Poetry Friday, and thanks for such a HOPEFUL look at 9/11.
My privilege & pleasure. Thank you so much for your kind welcome to PF, and for taking time to read and comment on my first PF posting:) God bless you!
Thanks for bringing such a thoughtful post to your first Poetry Friday! I didn’t know about the book and am glad to have read of it here. And Emily D’s words are always welcome.
Thanks for joining in this week.
Thank YOU for being the key player in my having such a positive initial PF experience. …Let me count the ways… Thank you for having a welcoming, upbeat attitude, reflected in your website. I really needed and appreciated your style, given how scared I was to make that first post. Thank you, too, for allowing us to post Thursday evening. Nervous I wouldn’t post correctly before PF became Saturday, I was greatly relieved to get a jump start. Turns out, you made posting simple. Thank you!!! …As if all those things that you didn’t weren’t enough, I am very honored that you took time to read/comment on the post. I appreciate your positive feedback. Hope (no pun intended) to use PF as the inspiration/incentive to blog about poetry each week. What a joy! I’m soooooooo grateful for the opportunity. God bless you.