Cyma Shapiro Chats with Christine Pisera Naman, author of “Faces of Hope: Babies Born on 9/11” and “Faces of Hope, 10 Years Later”
Q: On 9/11, an estimated 10,000 children were born including your own son, Trevor. (Christine was 38 years old). I’m assuming that your experience formed the basis for your book. Please tell me more about this.
A: Having a baby on any day is a unique experience, having a baby on 9/11 was particularly unique. One does not often shed tears of sadness as well as tears of joy on the same day. But I did. Holding a new life in my arms was joyous. Watching our country being attacked was devastating. My own experience did form the basis for the books. I wanted to reach out to others who just might be feeling the same as I was.
Q: Can you share with us a little about the mechanics of compiling the book: how hard was it to find and interview your subjects (since they came from all 50 states)? Also, did you find regional differences in perceptions about 9/11? That is, the further from NYC you traveled, did greater observations prevail?
A: My method for compiling the books was extremely simple. I started with an internet search of baby announcements in newspapers throughout the U.S. Then simply found phone numbers and called, introduced myself then asked if they would be a part of my project of hope. I often say that remarkably, I made just about 50 phone calls to find the 50 babies. The reception from the parents was great. I found that people were pretty much equally touched by the tragedies of 9/11. Close and far it was heart breaking for all.
Q: As a mother of three children, how difficult/easy was it to present these babies in their glory – a group whose collective presence often represents new beginnings and, of course, the blank slate/freshness that only young children can provide?
A: It was easy to present the children with positive freshness and new hope. Just looking at their photos it is impossible to see anything else.
Q: In your original book, you frame the innocence of children around an event representing one of darkness or of the greatest evils of mankind. Please share some of your feelings around this dichotomy.
A: Without being political, I wanted to convey to America first & the world second that in spite of the great evil inflicted on our country that day, there was still a bright future ahead. A future that will be shaped by these beautiful innocent faces who glow with hope & optimism for a world that will see good. And that will happen through them, the representatives of a generation born on that awful day.
Q: One tragedy of death is that the deceased is often celebrated in a way that might not have happened in life. It appears as if this might be the case with Christina Taylor Green (your Colorado representative), the young girl who was killed in the shootings surrounding Gabrielle Gifford; a girl whose story of courage, hope and intent resonated around the world. Can you share some of your personal experiences with her and the message you might have taken away from her tragic passing?
A: Christina represented Maryland in the book. Unfortunately, I did not have the privilege of knowing Christina personally but do know through talks with her mother that she was a truly remarkable little girl who did much good and made the world a better place in her short life. Senseless killing is impossible to make sense of.
Q: Having reconnected with these families and children 10 years later, how have their parents’ perceptions of that day changed? What is overall consensus of that date by the now 9 to 10 year olds?
A: I think like most people feel when they look back on 9/11 the parents can remember who they were with, what they were doing and how they felt. It is one of those days that feels like a long time ago then at the same time feels like just yesterday. Speaking with the parents, their perceptions seem to not have changed much. They remember the joy as well as the heartbreak they felt. As far as the children go, I think they have grown to feel a certain bit of responsibility to add goodness to our world because of the date of their birth. And that is what we as parents hope they will do.
Q: You were quoted as saying that “it’s impossible not to feel blessed when you hold a new life and new hope in your arms…I began to realize that my baby…had a very special purpose. (Regarding the other children) They were born to provide life, hope and goodness to a world on a day when it needed it most.” It’s obvious that your connection to motherhood has provided you with the impetus for many of your books. Can you discuss this further?
A: I always felt I needed to express my spirituality. Faces of Hope could obviously not have been planned, but when circumstances placed those two events together (the 9/11 attacks & the birth of Trevor), they acted like a catalyst and I felt the need to put together Faces of Hope. Had one event happened without the other, I am not sure I would have had the impetus to write it. Motherhood fed those emotional flames ignited by the attacks.
Q: How does being a midlife mother frame your perceptions of motherhood? How has it impacted your children?
A: I don’t really know how being a midlife mother frames my perceptions, hopefully being older and having a bit more life experience than younger moms helps me some. I feel that we become better mothers learning from prior experiences & making sure not to repeat “rookie” mistakes we may have made when we were younger & “greener”.
Q: Finally, what life lessons do you believe that mothers, and especially (new) older mothers, can take away from your books?
A: The only life lessons I hope anyone of any age will take from my books is to simply live life to the fullest, take what life gives you and find the hope in it all.
Christine Pisera Naman is an author, wife and mother. She lives in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania with her husband Peter and three children Jason, Natalie and Trevor. She enjoys eating out, window shopping, long walks and reading and writing. Her other works include Caterpillar Kisses, Christmas Lights and The Believers.