People ask Margaret and Dwyane McNeill to tell them about the day their younger son, Patrick, was born. “He’s our little conversation piece,” Margaret says.
Dwyane McNeill was driving on I-95 during morning rush hour, headed to Inova Alexandria Hospital, when he made an illegal exit to get out of the congested HOV lanes. His wife, Margaret, was in labor.
“It’s a blessing he made that exit,” Margaret says. They were near the Pentagon—if they’d sat in traffic, they might have seen the plane crash: “I don’t know what I would have done.”
Margaret and Dwyane tried to call relatives after Patrick was born, but all they got was busy signals. The Dale City couple were worried about their toddler son, Tyler, who was with Dwyane’s parents. Margaret couldn’t stop watching the news. She prayed.
“You’re trying to take it all in,” says Margaret, who delivered Patrick at 3 that afternoon. “You think the world’s coming to an end.”
Outside, her husband saw smoke from the Pentagon. “I was numb,” says Dwyane, an information-technology manager for the Red Cross.
Nurses offered to take Patrick so Margaret could rest, but she wanted him near. She’d gone into labor four months earlier after doctors operated to remove an ovarian tumor they feared was cancerous.
“This pregnancy was an emotional roller coaster,” says Margaret, a business analyst for Fannie Mae. “It was by the grace of God that he stayed in there.”
On a recent vacation, someone asked Patrick when his birthday was. He told her, “September 11.” Then she asked his age.
“She gave me that look people give you, like ‘Really?’ ” Margaret says.
Patrick is a first-grader at Rosa Parks Elementary. “He watches you,” Margaret says. “He’s very observant.”
His parents say he doesn’t know about 9/11. While they’re being interviewed, he plays with a paper airplane as they talk.
“You forgot what happened on my birthday,” he says at the end.
Margaret seems surprised. “What happened?” she says. “You were born—that’s what happened.”
Patrick says, “Somebody scared people.”
Photography by Simon Bruty.