May 24, 2002

As the first plane struck the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, Julie Kearnan curled up in a chair in Millville steeling herself for another contraction.

Labor had started the evening before. By dawn Tuesday she knew her son was on his way.

Terrorists, meanwhile, continued their assault on the World Trade Center tower.

Julie's husband, Brian watched in horror.

''I was kind of angry, first as an American that this happened to us as a country, but also as a person. ... This was supposed to be the most exciting and monumental event, as a new parent, and it was sort of tainted by the attack,'' he said.

This was the day his son was to be born.

It was also the day thousands of people died in New York City, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.

''I always knew there was good and bad in the world, but on this day it brought it to a new level. You almost question did we do the right thing having a baby,'' Julie said. ''On the opposite end of the spectrum you think he's born on this day that makes him special.''

It's not uncommon for parents to be so scared of the world their child is living in.

Sometimes the world is a scary place.

The Kearnans had reason to be scared.

On this day their fears were playing out on TV.

It was real, in technicolor and narrated by Bryant Gumbel.

''It impacted me greatly that he was born on that day,'' Brian said.

Like the rest of the country, he struggled to understand the intense hatred that propelled the terrorists to take this action.

He also realized that the lives of all us who live in this country changed forever that day.

''I was flooded with all sorts of contradictory emotions,'' Brian said. ''I was excited he was coming and I was angry, in shock.''

His son was entering a world he didn't recognize or understand.

Although Julie's awareness of the day's significance was clouded by the pain of labor, the full impact of the events hit her later.

Her son, she said, shows that life continues.

''He is something good that came out of that day,'' she said.

As he tended to his wife, Brian was keenly aware of the implications of the day. He worried the world would end the day he and his wife had so anxiously awaited.

So close to realizing a dream, the country seemed on the brink of war.

''I look at Christopher and I realize how precious life is and how lucky I am to be a father,'' Brian said. ''I also think how in a moment that can be taken from you.''

Ultimately, even as the rest of the nation remained riveted to the tragedy, Christopher commanded their full attention. He was born at 10:10 p.m.

''When it came time for him to be born, everything shut down and it was all about Christopher,'' Brian recalled.

He'll get the same attention each year, his dad pledged, even though the world will continue to mourn.

''Besides the historical significance of that day we'll want to make it special for Christopher,'' Brian said.

And when he's ready, they will tell him the whole story.

''It is true that the day you were born, tragedy befell our nation,'' Brian wrote in a letter he intends to give Christopher when he is older. ''It was our darkest hour. Sadly Sept. 11, 2001, will be remembered as the day America changed forever. Life will never again be the same.

''For America, the date will forever be infamous. But also, we know Sept. 11, 2001, is especially glorious. The day you were born ... there was a miracle from heaven.''

Since his birth, Julie, 30, a native of Marlborough, and Brian, 31, who was raised in Mendon, have had plenty of time to reflect.

They now see the timing of their son's birth as fated.

After all, he was due six days earlier.

On that historic day, he was the only child born in Milford-Whitinsville Regional Hospital.

''I think there may have been some greater meaning for his birth,'' Brian said. ''I really thought that day demonstrated the evil man can do to his fellow man.

''I thought his birth was a symbol of renewal of hope.''

As the couple discussed their son, his big brown eyes focused on his father. Bouncing on his mother's knee, a smile lit up his face.

It's not hard to understand their joy.

''Maybe he's destined to have some sort of impact on the world,'' his father speculated.

Or maybe he'll live out the dreams of the many who died on Sept. 11 and have a happy, full and long life.