NEW YORK -- At a baby shower for dozens of Sept. 11 widows who gave birth after the attacks, the greatest applause, and the most tears, followed the reading of a letter from Mariane Pearl, the widow of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.
Herself a new mother, Pearl expressed solidarity with the sad sorority, but encouraged the mothers to fight their despair.
"Our shared destiny implies a great deal of loneliness," wrote Pearl, who gave birth to a son, Adam, five months after her husband was killed by Islamic militants in Pakistan. "To win over terrorism is not to be crushed by sadness and despair. ... Our role is to preserve life."
Friday's gathering of about 70 widows and their children was timed to help ease the pain of the anniversary of 9-11. It was the first time many of the women had met.
"Coming together with women who have been through what I've been through helps a lot," said Linda Dickinson of Marlboro, N.J., cradling her 9-month-old son, Patrick. "It's been a horrible year and as the anniversary draws near I'm trying to focus on the positive, the blessings I've received."
After the attacks, 102 widows gave birth to 105 babies, according to the Independent Women's Forum's Infant Care Project, which granted each of the women $4,000 to pay for childcare.
The group also helped fly the women from around the country and Canada and hosted the shower luncheon at Cipriani's restaurant, where the pink-and-white tablecloths were topped with floral centerpieces, chairs were decorated with toy angels, and colorful stuffed penguins were passed out as party favors.
"I still cry every day," confessed Jenna Jacobs, of Briarcliff Manor, N.Y., as she tended to her fidgeting son, Gabriel. "The pain doesn't go away."
First lady Laura Bush sent a letter. Libby Pataki, the wife of New York's governor, spoke above the squall of countless babies in an adjoining nursery.
Jacobs, the only 9-11 mother who addressed the audience, struggled through tears as she described her life before the attacks -- and after.
"We're normal but we're not. There's no closure. There's no moving on. But time still passes," she said, noting that her infant son's blue eyes are just a shade darker than her late husband's.
"My husband was my whole life. I wish I could just lay down and die, but I can't. ... We get out of bed each day because our children are more important than anything," she said, as eyes around the large dining room welled with tears.
Sheila Ornedo, from Los Angeles, whose husband was on the plane that crashed into the Pentagon, said Friday was the first time she'd met others like herself.
"It helps a lot emotionally to be here. It's amazing to meet so many mothers who've had the same experience," she said.
Most of the mothers said they would try to avoid the large memorial ceremonies planned for Sept. 11.
"I have no need to walk into the pit, even though I know my husband is there. It's too overwhelming," said Dickinson, who said she would spend the day at church and at home with her children, reflecting.
Vycki Higley, of Danbury, Conn., planned to flee to Vermont with her 10-month-old daughter, Robyn, on Sept. 11.
"It's just too painful to be in the city on that day," she said.
But several said they would attend ceremonies.
Barasheed Ashrafi, of Queens, the only Muslim in the group, was among the few who said she planned to attend the memorial at ground zero.
Hugging her son, Farqat Chowdhury, whose first birthday is Sept. 13, she said: "His father loved this country and when my son grows up I will tell him no matter what religion, everyone is praying for you."
Stephanie Dunn, of Springfield, Va., whose husband was killed at the Pentagon, planned to attend the Washington ceremony.
"I'll go to the Pentagon observance, take it all in, and when it's over I'll try to get through the next day," she said, holding her 6-month-old daughter, Alexandria. "That's all you can do."
On the Net:
Independent Women's Forum: http://www.iwf.org
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.