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Nixons will celebrate, reflect on Sept. 11

Posted: Wednesday September 11, 2002 9:44 AM
Updated: Wednesday September 11, 2002 7:08 PM
  Tront, Kathryn and Chase Nixon Trot Nixon displays a photo of his son, Chase, who was born on Sept. 11, 2001. AP

By John Donovan, CNNSI.com

BOSTON -- As he wound his way toward Boston a year ago, the world in chaos around him, Trot Nixon saw the hideous black smoke over Washington, D.C. A short while later, peering through the darkness, he gaped at the gray cloud hovering over New York City.

The radio droned on with the terrible news. The miles inched by. Trot, his mom, dad and sister with him, pushed the borrowed truck faster and faster along the highway, skirting blockades, rushing to get to an appointment they'd already missed.

It was Sept. 11, 2001, and Trot Nixon, the right fielder for the Boston Red Sox, had to get home.

There are thousands and thousands of stories about perhaps the most infamous day in American history. Some are heartbreaking. Some are horrifying. Trot Nixon's odyssey, thankfully, is neither.

It starts with Trot and the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium in New York, sitting through a rainout, then hopping on a plane to Tampa, Fla., for the next series. Trot had barely made it to his hotel room, had just lain down after almost no sleep -- he had played cards almost the whole flight -- when the phone rang.

It was the other part of this story, Trot's wife, Kathryn. She was back home in Boston, due to give birth at any time to the couple's first child.

In fact, it was time.

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"He was like, 'Are you sure you're in labor?" Kathryn said. "We had already been through this a couple of times."

She was sure. So Trot, "jelly-legged" from his lack of sleep, made a couple of phone calls and bolted for the airport to grab a 7:05 a.m. flight to Boston. The flight would never make it that far.

Somewhere over the Eastern seaboard, Trot was roused from his sleep. He felt the plane starting to descend. He looked down from his window seat at a place that looked nothing like Boston.

He looked up to see people scurrying around the cabin. "One of the flight attendants walked back like she was sick to her stomach," Trot said.

The news of the terrorist attacks on New York City had reached the plane. The flight, like all flights in the air that day, was ordered grounded. Trot's flight was landing in Norfolk, Va.

A long trip home was about to get a lot longer.

By the time he got off the plane in Norfolk and saw the horror unfolding on TV, Trot knew he wouldn't be getting back on a plane that day. He knew Kathryn would have to go on without him.

He made the phone call to break the news to his wife.

"My doctor had not said anything about what was going on. I think he just didn't say anything because he didn't want me to know," Kathryn said. "I really didn't know [about the attacks] until Trot called. I didn't understand it, the magnitude of everything that had happened.

"But [Trot] was crying. He called me, so I knew it had to be horrible."

Much of Trot's family lives in Wilmington, N.C., about 300 miles from Norfolk. So a cousin came to pick him up. Later, talking to his parents, Trot fought off his anger toward the terrorists who would kill so many innocent people, who would keep him from being at the birth of his child, who would make him feel so helpless being stuck, miles away, with no quick way to get to Kathryn.

"It's kind of hard to explain that, the feelings. I was really upset," he said. "I asked my mom why. And why this had to happen right now. And all I could think about was Kathryn."

Later that day, it was Kathryn's turn to call. Trot was in his cousin's truck. He remembers looking down at the dashboard clock.

The Nixons' son, a boy, Chase, was born at 1:26 p.m. on Sept. 11.

"I started crying. I am not afraid to cry," Trot said. "This is the birth of our son and she put him up to the phone. He was screaming and yelling. It was awesome."

Trot and his family continued to barrel north in the truck, through D.C., where they drove through empty streets and saw the black smoke billowing from the terrorist attack on the Pentagon. They drove through Trenton, N.J., slipping past New York City, where they could see helicopters and planes circling and the gray cloud that was once the twin towers of the World Trade Center.

They listened to the radio. They talked. They called Kathryn on and off.

Trot took over the driving, pushed the truck past 70 mph on the empty interstates and, at about 3 a.m. on Sept. 12, he walked into Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston to meet his son.

"Probably the biggest thing I felt was a sense of relief," he said. "All that happened that day had seemed to escape my mind for a little bit ... "

The Nixons have grappled with the terrible incongruities of Sept. 11, the happiest day of their lives and perhaps the saddest for an entire country. They have come to grips with it, though, as they've watched their son grow over his first year.

They've decided to celebrate Chase's birth while honoring those who lost their lives on that day. They know the two will always be entwined.

"It is the celebration of my son's birthday. The birth of my son is the way I am going to look at it," Trot said. "I think we will remember for the rest of our lives what happened on that day. But we are going to treat it as a celebration of Chase's birthday."

This year, Kathryn plans a birthday party in Tampa, where the Red Sox are playing the Devil Rays. Everyone will be decked out in red, white and blue. They will say the Pledge of Allegiance. They will pray.

And the Nixons will play with their beautiful, healthy boy.

"We will always let Chase know that he was so special to be born and brought into this world on that day," Kathryn said through tears, "because he brought good into the world that day."


 
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