Categorized | 911, Features

Joy on a day of sorrow

By Kristen Tribe
Originally published Sunday, September 11, 2011

All American Boy

ALL-AMERICAN BOY - Dalton Westray of Boyd was born Sept. 11, 2001. His parents, David and Tracie Westray, make efforts every year to balance the day of remembrance with his birthday celebration. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Devastation enveloped the nation Sept. 11, 2001.

But for David and Tracie Westray of Boyd, it was also a day of hope.

Their only child, Dalton, was born that day, just two hours and 12 minutes prior to the first plane hitting the World Trade Center.

As they watched the violent disruption of so many lives, the next chapter of their life lay bundled in their arms.

“You feel horrible for these people,” Tracie said, “but it was also the most joyous day of my life.”

Although they entertained fleeting thoughts about the meaning, Tracie said they just brought it back to God.

“He was taking away, but he was also bringing in new life, so it’s not the end of the world.”

Dalton was born at 6:33 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, at Harris Methodist Hospital in Fort Worth. He weighed 6 pounds, 15 ounces.

After a long, hard labor, Tracie and David marveled at their newborn son.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy in my life,” she said. “It was magical. It was just utter joy and happiness, everything good in a bottle.”

Later in the morning, after Tracie and baby Dalton were settled, David stepped out to pick up breakfast for his wife. It was on his way to Denny’s that he first heard of the terrorist attacks.

When he returned to the hospital, he rushed upstairs and turned on the TV. The couple was fighting fatigue, which made the situation even more difficult to comprehend. Eventually, they were able to nap, only to awake to the second tower being hit.

“It was hard to watch that building crumble,” said Tracie.

David, who lived in New York City from 1985 to 1988, understood the magnitude of the situation right away, and although the couple didn’t have any friends or family living in New York at the time, he said it was hard to watch the neighborhood he had once roamed destroyed.

They sat on the third floor of the hospital, transfixed, like the rest of the nation.

“We had some conversations,” said David, as he turned to look at his wife. “I just said there’s a reason he was born today He’s got some real special gifts, and there’s no doubt in my mind and Tracie’s that he’s destined for something pretty serious.”

An all-American boy, Dalton has big dreams and a mischievous twinkle in his eye. He’s a fourth grader at Boyd Intermediate School, and he’s already setting goals for college.

“I want to be pre-med at TCU and finish at UT,” he said. “I want to play football and basketball at UT but I don’t know if I can do both. I want to be a doctor.”

A Boy's Dream

A BOY'S DREAM - Dalton Westray catches a pass during a recent football practice. The Boyd fourth grader, who was born Sept. 11, 2001, shines on the football field, as well as in the classroom. He has goals of playing football in college and studying medicine at the University of Texas. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

His parents said every career he’s ever talked about pursuing entails helping other people. Just a couple of years ago, he was tossing around the possibilities of police officer, U.S. marshal or SWAT team member.

David said his son has been on the academic honor roll since first grade, and he’s also exhibited athletic talent on the football field as a running back.

“He doesn’t try things and not succeed,” said David. “He’s determined and fearless.”

Dalton said he first remembers hearing about the events of Sept. 11 when he was 5. His parents have purposefully included him in conversations about the terrorist attacks because they wanted him to “know the good with the bad.”

They have a small collection of memorabilia from that day, and Dalton even has a tiny, red, white and blue ribbon that hospital volunteers gave to all the newborns.

Tracie said she originally planned a patriotic-themed first birthday party, but she changed her mind after visiting online forums with moms who also had 9/11 babies.

She said some of the mothers discussed the importance of the birthday being about the child – not the tragedy – and Tracie changed her mind.

“We wouldn’t do it for any other historical event,” she said.

Since then, Dalton celebrated in the traditional ways with bounce houses, pool parties and even a trip to Chuck E. Cheese. His parents respect and honor those directly affected by Sept. 11, but they also make a point to celebrate their son.

Dalton’s date of birth gets the most reaction when his parents are filling out enrollment forms for school, sports or doctors. David said the date is usually cause for a question: “The day?,” followed by a long pause.

David said he tries hard to separate his thoughts of the terrorist attack and his son’s birthday, but he acknowledged that this year, the 10th anniversary, would be more difficult.

Tracie offers prayers of comfort for families who lost loved ones on 9/11 and prayers of thanksgiving for those who were born that day. It’s all she knows to do.

“It’s a tough week with all these specials on TV,” she said. “Of course, I want to watch them all. I cry through them and look at him and say, ‘there’s my joy.’”


Look for more of WCMessenger.com’s special 9/11 tribute at www.wcmessenger.com/911.

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