Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Mother's Prayer

There have been a few moments in my life when the emotions have been so strong, so overwhelming, that I shrugged off my cloak of daily writing insecurities and immediately - without procrastinating, censoring or editing - attempted to capture my feelings on paper.

I wrote letters to my children the moment I learned of them; I wrote tributes to my grandparents when I lost them; and I wrote this, a letter to my then four-year-old daughter, when her world forever changed on a terrible day in September.

Some of you have read it before, but I have never posted it from the Porch. I hope we all remember how we felt that September day. How we grieved, hoped, prayed and vowed collectively. How we shrugged off the cloaks of labels, denominations and red and blue. How that dark night, we were simply mothers, holding our babies, praying the world they grew up in would be a peaceful one.

A Mother's Prayer: A letter written to my daughter Kelsey on the eve of September 11, 2001

As I tucked you into bed this eve
I wondered how the sheets--thin, flimsy, transparent--would protect you.
Would the blanket, soft from so many washings,
The teddy worn, dingy, tattered,
Be enough this night?

I arrived at your school early today.

You were laughing on the playground
Beneath a cloudless sky
Not a single vapor trail tarnishing the sheath of blue.
As I watched you swing, jump, slide through the morn
So unaware,
I realized the promise the day might have held.

A day of baseball games, recess tag and lawn mowers
Windows rolled down and sleeves rolled up,
Not quite summer, not yet fall.

Instead, it was a day of odd, quiet chaos
As the frightened lined up for gasoline
And bought ground beef, canned goods, milk, bread, and bottled water.
Searching for reassurance, people crowded into the cinder-block ice-cream stand
To hear the president
And mumbled "bomb the sonsofbitches" or
"God bless us all."

It was a day of cell phone calls,
Open churches,
And closed businesses.

I held your small hand and led you through parking lots,
And I was ashamed that you completely trusted me
For I am not the person I was when I went to bed last.

 I witnessed too much this day
And my eyes are stamped with images of
Thick black smoke
And ash.

I run my fingers through my hair continuously,
As if the dust, miles away, somehow reached me.
And old woman nodded at me today, her eyes haunted by another time.
"You haven't seen this before," is all she said.

I called my mom, my mother-in-law,
My sister, my brother,
Again and again,
As if we could make ourselves believe
The unbelievable.

While carrying in groceries,
Your father and I had stopped
Dropped bags and held each other tight.
We ate frozen pizza for supper,
Not saying a word as the TV blared.

Later I caught you peeking at the screen,
And I drew you onto my lap, kissed your head
And tried to explain what I still can't comprehend.
I promised you the world is good,
You are loved.
You are safe.

I nestled beside you in bed,
Clasping your hand, warm and moist from the tub.
I breathed your smell of soap and toothpaste.
I sang your lullaby.

We prayed.

I told you America is strong and right, mighty and free.
As you drifted away, I pictured America's mothers.

We are blacktop roads, shotgun houses, and Spanish tile.
Marble, loose shingles, and Bradford pears.
Gated communities, brick ranches, and trailers.
Three bedrooms and two baths.
Geraniums, roses, and dandelions.
Linoleum and sidewalks.
Mortar and stone.
Sand, salt, and dirt.

Tonight as One,
We held our children closer.
We crept into your rooms many times
As if you were babies,
Fragile and new.

We touched your cheeks and felt your breath on our hands,
Warm reminder of life.
We looked through the window at the darkest night
Anxious for the sun to shine on us again,
Silently weeping for the innocent lost
And lost innocence.


  1. Beautiful!! Thank You for sharing this!!

  2. Had to read in increments because I was in the car and had no tissues. Thank you so much (I initially typo-ed "fo sush" - awesome - back to serious) for sharing this. Not yet having had any children at that time but a class full of ten year olds, I only had an inkling of how full each mother's heart was that day. Beauty-full!

  3. Oh, my gosh! I read this via Allie's Facebook entry. This may be the best thing I've read pertaining to 9/11, Jennifer. Thank you so much for writing this and for sharing it. I see that Josh is not the only Jenkins to inherit the writing gene.

  4. Thank you all for taking the time to read, reflect and comment. I'd like to think we've come a long, long way since that dark day, but ...

    Regardless, I firmly believe that mothers, when united, have the power to change the world. Let's give it a go, shall we?