Reid Clayton has noticed people react strangely when he tells them his birthday.
“I say, ‘I was born on September 11,’ and everyone’s like, ‘Oh my God,’” he said. He knows it’s the day airplanes flew into the twin towers.
Ten years ago, Melissa and her husband, Craig, felt all the excitement and apprehension normal to couples expecting the birth of their first child. Because Melissa had had problems with high blood pressure during her pregnancy, her doctor planned to induce labor on Sept. 11.
They arrived at Doctors Hospital before 6 a.m., Melissa was given an epidural, and as she waited for the final moments of labor the couple watched TV. They saw the first plane hit the twin towers. Then, the second.
“That’s when I personally got a little frightened. I was very scared. I knew then that it was not an accident. I knew something bad was happening,” Melissa said.
As events unfolded Melissa’s blood pressure rose dangerously and hospital staff made them turn the TV off.
Reid was born at 3:02 p.m. Family and friends focused on the couple’s joy, not the day’s tragedy. Doctors shooed everyone away early so Melissa could sleep.
The Claytons would later learn the full details of the attacks. It became a day of mixed emotions.
“We were overwhelmed with joy over having our first child, but we were also seeing everything else,” Craig said. “These other families were being broken at the same time our family was coming together.”
Though mindful of the sacrifice the Sept. 11 attacks represented then and in the years that followed, they separate their son’s birthday from those tragic events.
“We’ve always tried to make it just a normal day for a child that’s having a birthday,” Melissa said.
An intelligent, intuitive child, Reid listens to adult conversations and wants to understand what’s going on. A few years ago he asked his mother what happened the day he was born. Melissa kept the answer simple.
“I said, ‘A mean man attacked our country and thousands of people died.’”
Though his family doesn’t want Reid to be defined by his birthday, destiny or coincidence creates its own connections. After his parents, Reid said, his heroes are firefighters and policemen.