Three weeks after Sept. 11, Alneata Small-Barrett and her husband found out they were going to have another baby.
Though the shadow of the terror attacks still draped heavy over the country altering it to a place where some were afraid to live, let alone raise an innocent newborn Small-Barrett said news of her third pregnancy couldn't have come at a better time.
"We were ecstatic," she said Saturday, cradling her 2-month-old son, Chance, in the crook of her arm as she fed him from a bottle. "Now's the time to be around your family."
The 9-11 tragedy hammered that message home for Small-Barrett and all the families in her northwest Lawrence cul-de-sac. In an effort to celebrate family and community connections as the Sept. 11 anniversary approaches, the neighborhood on Saturday evening came together for a cookout.
The terror attacks were not a subject of conversation.
Instead, mothers and fathers watched their ruddy-cheeked children pedal bicycles balanced with training wheels, lip sync to Britney Spears songs and slurp Popsicles.
Marci Stanwix, a cul-de-sac resident, consoled her 2-year-old daughter, Emma, who was crying because she'd been bickering with another child.
"She had just turned 1 on Aug. 29 last year," Stanwix said of her youngest daughter. "On Sept. 11, I had been planning on going out to Target that evening. But I just got my kids and came home. I didn't care to go anywhere. I wanted to be where I was safe."
Like other neighbors in the cul-de-sac, Phil Oyler feels as if his neighborhood is secure and tight-knit. He wishes he could say the same about the rest of the world, which has become a more volatile place since Sept. 11 and the ensuing war on terrorism.
"This isn't over, by any means," said Oyler, a former Navy Corpsman with the U.S. Marines. "I think this now replaces the Cold War. That's sad for the kids."
But at least one bright spot emerged from the smoke and devastation: post-Sept. 11 displays of unity, like Saturday's neighborhood barbecue.
"Sept. 11 kind of got people off the fence," Oyler said. "People want that togetherness again."