September 30, 2002 12:00 PM

Six members of the Waterville, Maine, fire department were gathering at their station house on Sept. 11, preparing to remember those lost in last year’s terror attacks, when they were interrupted by an emergency of a very different sort. A car raced up to the building. Out jumped a frantic Donald Clark, 32, who’d lost his way while driving his very pregnant wife, Terri, along with two of their six children, to a local hospital. “He was in a panic,” recalls firefighter John Gromek, 31, “and said his wife was having a baby.”

The firefighters phoned an ambulance and tried to make Terri comfortable. But before help arrived, the 34-year-old homemaker delivered a 7-lb. 15-oz. boy into the arms of Robert Shay, 47. “Pop, out he came,” says the firefighter, who has two kids of his own.

That was the morning’s first surprise. Shay and his colleagues noted that the baby arrived at 8:46 a.m.—one year to the minute after the first hijacked airliner crashed into the Twin Towers. Terri and Donald, who is studying elementary education, subsequently decided to name their seventh son Robert Maxwell Freedom Clark, in a salute to both Shay and their son’s historic birthday.

After the story made network news, the Clarks, who live in rural Palermo, Maine, learned of an eerie coincidence: A 27-year-old bond broker, also named Robert Shay, had died in the Trade Center attacks. “We can’t help but feel that our Robert was with you,” e-mailed his mother, Maureen Shay. Terri Clark would like to think so. “To hear that he’s made so many people so much happier is special,” she says of her new son. “And he doesn’t even realize what he’s done.”

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