For Auburn girl, a reunion in New York with 9/11 babies

jmustian@ledger-enquirer.comSeptember 11, 2011 

When terror struck America 10 years ago, Gardiner Church found herself in a Columbus hospital giving birth to a daughter.

As a Pitocin drip hastened her labor, she and her husband, like so many others, watched television in horror as the nation came under attack.

Church’s daughter, Ellie, has drawn expressions of sympathy over the past decade when telling people what day she was born. But Church has taken pains to emphasize her daughter’s birthday is nothing to be ashamed of.

Indeed, Ellie belongs to a unique group of 10-year-olds who Church says reflect the good that came out of that day amid indescribable devastation.

“For us, that was a happy day,” said Church, a former Columbus resident who has since moved with her family to Auburn, Ala. “At some point that day in the hospital, you had to put that in the back of your mind and celebrate God’s gift.”

Church and her daughter returned Friday from a special trip to New York City, where they met for three days with about two dozen children who also share a birthday with national tragedy. The three-day affair marked a reunion of the kids featured in “Faces of Hope: Babies Born on 9/11.”

The book was authored by Christine Pisera Naman, a Pennsylvania writer who also gave birth to a son the day of the terrorist attacks. It features a baby from all 50 states; Ellie was randomly chosen to represent Georgia.

Naman recently released a second book featuring photographs, quotes and drawings from the children 10 years later. She invited the children and their families to join her in the Big Apple last week for a tour of ground zero, a Broadway musical and a trip to Toys R Us in Times Square.

“It just seemed like they’re finally at the age that they can come and really comprehend what 9/11 is all about,” Naman said. “You can tell them about it all you want and they only get half of it, but if you show it to them, they get much more. It was just a perfect milestone.”

Naman said the group wore special shirts in remembrance of Christina Taylor Green, the 9-year-old girl fatally shot in January in a rampage that killed six people and wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, Ariz. Green, too, was born Sept. 11, 2001, and was featured among the Faces of Hope.

Over the years, Church said she has compiled a large file of 9/11-related materials for her daughter to know what happened on her birthday. She said Naman’s books chronicle one of the few positive aspects of that day.

“So many people gave me the cover of Time and the cover of Newsweek,” she said. “That book was kind of the flip side of that. Yes, all that horrible stuff happened -- but look at all the good that happened.”

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