The women who gathered with their babies for a photo session in New York this summer looked just like any other group of new mothers.
But as they chatted, their small talk told a different story: "What did your husband do?" ... "His mom called me right away"... "They found a lot of Frank, right?" ... "I think the hardest part is going to be explaining it to my kids."
The women all lost their husbands on Sept. 11 and gave birth to their children in the months afterward. Primetime had met many of the women in the course of the year, and wanted to bring them together for a photograph to commemorate what for them has been a harrowing year, the joy of their babies' births tempered by the sorrow of their loss.
Sixty-one women ended up participating, with two sets of twins making a total of 63 babies — roughly half of the babies known to have been born to Sept. 11 widows. The group turned the elegant conservatory at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden into happy chaos, the younger babies crying and gurgling (if they weren't sleeping or munching on their blankets), the older ones crawling out of position again and again, mothers and producers running around to catch them. How do you wrangle 36 baby boys and 27 baby girls — ranging in age from three weeks to nearly a year — all into one place and get them to sit still for a photograph?
Going Through Pregnancy Alone
The 63 babies were a happy sight, but the loss that unites their mothers, of course, was not. In a similar way, while the mothers said their babies had brought them joy, many said that having to go through a pregnancy alone had made their grieving even harder.
"I think he's a gift," said Haven Fyfe of her 1-month-old Parker, "but I did not think being pregnant and being a widow was a gift. I thought it was very cruel." Fyfe had told her husband Karleton that she was pregnant just two days before he died on board American Airlines Flight 11. She went through a long and painful natural childbirth, but said the pain was "a cathartic release for me about the anger that I have about my husband's death."
Katy Soulas said she wishes her husband Tim, who worked for Cantor Fitzgerald on the 105th floor of the World Trade Center, was present at the birth of their sixth child, Daniel, so she could have thanked him for making her a mother. But she said she sensed his presence: "I felt Tim holding my hand. So he was with me."
Many of the women said the single hardest moment of the past year was coming home with their baby, to a home without a father, and then facing the prospect of raising their children alone.
"It would be very easy to just stop," said Patti Quigley, as her baby Leigh gurgled on her lap. "She wakes up at 6, like clockwork, every day, and I can't just let her lie there.... Once I'm up, I'm all right."
The widows, many of whom were meeting each other for the first time, found some solace in coming together. "It's incredible to take in, that so many people are going through the same thing," said Barbara Atwood, whose husband Gerald was a firefighter. "There's some comfort, unfortunately, in that — and there's strength in it."
Oldest Baby, Youngest Baby