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A ray of sunlight amid the ashes

Cecelia Hersom was born Sept. 11, 2001. Her grandmother sees that as no accident.

September 10, 2012
by Michael Tidemann - Staff Writer , Estherville Daily News

People old enough to have lived through the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor can tell you exactly where they were on the day. Not only that, they can tell you what they were doing, and with whom.

Not quite 60 years later, terrorist attacks on American soil, with even more casualties, surrealistically played out on television, put the attack on Pearl Harbor into perspective. Certainly, Pearl Harbor was horrific in terms of loss of life. But Sept. 11, 2001 was here. In America.

Yes, there were volunteers filling the recruit depots before the smoke even cleared from Pearl Harbor. But the same thing could be said after Sept. 11. And we didn't even need a draft to send an army to Afghanistan where we took the war to the enemy on his own turf, eventually finding and killing Osama bin Laden.

Article Photos

Phoebe Hersom with granddaughter Cecelia who was born Sept. 11, 2001.
EDN photo by Michael Tidemann

To have lived through Sept. 11, 2001, whether you were in the military or not, whether you planned to enlist or not, was to see American transformed. And yet, getting through that single day, seemed to take years.

For Phoebe and Paul Hersom, it was a time of tension. Not because of the terrorist attacks, but because their daughter, Carissa, was about to have their granddaughter.

As they waited for that moment of joy to happen, they watched at the first jetliner crashed into one of the Twin Towers on a blue, cloudless day. Then the second jetliner. And, finally, somewhere after the third jetliner crashed into the Pentagon and passengers on United Flight 93 gave up their lives to thwart an attack on the nation's capitol, Cecelia Hersom was born at 11:30 a.m.

Phoebe and Paul had been concerned about Carissa and the baby, and it was when the doctor and nurse were checking the first fetal monitor that they saw the first jet hit the first tower.

Phoebe and Paul, who adopted Cecelia, told her when she was growing up that some bad people did some bad things on the day she was born.

But not everything that happened that day was bad.

"God did something special that day. You were the thing that God did to brighten the world," Phoebe told Cecelia.

And, yes, Cecelia, even lying there as a newborn, was already helping her grandparents deal with the tragedy.

"You don't use violence to solve problems," Phoebe recalled telling Cecelia. "They killed a lot of people and haven't gained anything."

In fact, we can all learn from that day 11 days ago.

"Each day is important and don't put everything off until the next day because every day is precious," Phoebe said.

"It really wasn't just another day of the week," said Cecelia. "It was a day a lot of people died."

"I feel that God sent her that day," Phoebe said of her granddaughter. "She has a very caring heart. I think he has a lot of special plans for her. I think he made her for a purpose."

Cecelia says her teachers ask her what she thinks when she's told she was born 11 years ago today. It's no wonder that she's probably more aware of what happened on the day she was born than anyone else her age.

The first ray of hope for America after the Sept. 11 attacks came when firefighters hoisted the American flag on a twisted piece of rubble.

The first ray of hope for the Hersom family Sept. 11, 2001, was Cecelia.



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