New Life on 9/11: Alyssa Oellerich

Melody Harsey was overdue with Alyssa Oellerich when she was induced on 9/11.

Melody Harsey instinctively sheltered her daughter from what was happening on the day she was born.


She made the doctors at University Hospital turn off the TV when the second jet hit the Twin Towers. Her family had to leave the delivery room to watch the news.

Someday she’ll tell Alyssa Oellerich, now 10, how that day changed so many things for America. But she’s not yet ready to place that kind of heaviness on what is still such a happy day for her daughter.

“I don’t want her to feel the fear I felt that day,” Melody said.

Alyssa has a baby brother and four older siblings, but she’s the one who changes diapers and looks out for the others.

“She’s a second mom. I tell her every day that I could not do my job as well as I do it without her,” Melody said.

A sweet-spirited child who places others first, Alyssa won’t let her family down when it comes to homework, good grades or making a goal when she plays soccer. One day, she wants to be a dolphin trainer in an aquarium so she can feed, ride and teach the dolphins tricks.

She’s heard a little bit about the terrorist attacks.

“All I know is, the twin towers were crashing,” she said.

Ten years ago, Melody was looking forward to delivering a little girl. She had her daughter’s toenails painted the first day.

Alyssa was overdue, and doctors induced labor. Melody had just received an epidural when the second plane hit the twin towers. Alyssa’s father, Preston Oellerich, and the doctors stopped to watch what was happening on the delivery room TV.

“They were talking about hospitals and places where there were bunches of people. They said those could be targets as well,” Melody said. “So, just the thought of being in a hospital and bringing my child into the world on that day was scary.”

She ordered the TV off and shushed anyone who tried to talk about it. She didn’t listen to the news updates until that evening.

“It almost sounds selfish, but I didn’t want it to take away from my joy,” Melody said. “Then again, I also did it out of fear … and sadness.”

Today, Melody feels there was a reason why Alyssa was born on such a troubled a day.

“I just feel like the Lord has a big purpose for her,” Melody said. “Out of any day that it could have been, when so many people lost their lives, she was brought here.”

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