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Port Deposit girl a 'ray of sunshine' 10 years ago on otherwise gloomy day

As our nation prepares to remember one of the more somber days in its history this weekend, a Port Deposit girl will celebrate a pretty significant milestone – her 10th birthday.

Ten years ago Sunday, McKena Tucker was a ray of hope on an otherwise tragic day in the history of United States.

McKena, who goes by "Joey" (her middle name is Jolene), was born on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, the day nearly 3,000 Americans died in three separate terrorist attacks, on the two World Trade Center towers in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and the thwarted attack by terrorists whose plane crashed in western Pennsylvania.

"She was a blessing to us. It's just what she was meant to be, it's why she's special," her mother, Kris Tucker, said this week.

Tucker, who was living in Havre de Grace at the time, was pregnant with her third child and reported to Upper Chesapeake Medical Center in Bel Air at about 7 a.m. to have labor induced. If everything went right, her daughter would be born on her husband's birthday. Shawn Tucker turned 28 on Sept. 11, 2011.

Doctors broke Tucker's water and she started walking the halls.

"It was almost 9 a.m. and I started noticing nurses in waiting area, praying, crying," Tucker recalled. "A nurse said someone bombed the World Trade Center. We immediately went back to our room; we got back to see the second plane hit the south tower."

"It was just chaos," she said. Her first thought was that she needed to go home, to be with her other children.

But that wasn't going to happen, and the day "just kind of unfolded" from there. By 3 p.m., Tucker told her husband to turn of the television, she couldn't watch any more coverage.

"The nurses were trying to keep you as calm as you can be. They did the best they could," she said. "It was a lot to take in."

Joey was finally delivered at 5:32 p.m., a healthy baby girl to join her older sisters, Skylar, then 7, and Shawna, then 3. She was the only baby born at Upper Chesapeake that day, Tucker said she was told a year later.

For a long time, Sept. 11 was just like any other day for Joey. It was her birthday. Her parents didn't tell her about the terrorist attacks because they were afraid she wouldn't understand.

As Joey prepared to celebrate her first birthday, staff at The Record, sister paper to The Aegis, contacted Tucker, but the story never materialized. Tucker said she is glad it didn't because her daughter couldn't have understood the significance.

At 10, she does, her mom said.

"She knows now, she understands it," said Tucker, who works at 40 West Auto Repair in Havre de Grace.

She knows the World Trade Centers were hit and they collapsed. She's knows it's a special day in the United States, that something bad happened, but she doesn't know all of it.

"We just remind her that as bad as [Sept. 11] is, that God just found a small ray of sunshine, when everything looked so bleak," she said.

They didn't have time to reflect then, the day Joey was born, when it felt "suddenly like life has been changed."

"There had never been that kind of act on our soil. For her, it's her own special little piece of history. [Sept. 11 babies] were given to us as gifts for all the people that lost their lives, and continue to lose their lives," Tucker said.

It's important for Joey to remember that she's blessed, Tucker said.

Sept. 11 will be a day of remembrance in Harford County and across the country as the terrible events of that day 10 years ago are revived.

But not for the Tuckers, who will probably take Joey roller-skating to celebrate her 10th birthday. She'll continue to be a "little ray of sunshine" on an otherwise somber day.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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