WATERVILLE – Robert Maxwell Freedom Clark will always be associated with the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 — but in a good way.

Clark was born on Sept. 11, 2002.

Not so unusual perhaps, except that he was born at 8:46 a.m., the exact time American Airlines Flight 11 hit Tower One of the World Trade Center exactly a year earlier.

And he was born in his family’s car outside the Waterville Fire Department with the help of firefighters after the family car raced into an alley with his mother, Terri, inside. Two of her seven sons, Derek, then 11, and Jacob, then 3, were in the back seat.

It was a day to remember — a solemn day in which firefighters were preparing to hold a memorial service at the fire station.

But, as is typical of emergency work, the unexpected happened.

“We were trying to get to the hospital and my husband, Don, said, ‘Oh, look, there’s a fire department,’ ” Terri Clark said. “All I know is, I wanted him to stop. I told him the baby was coming out, and he told me to cross my legs.”

The Clarks lived in Palermo at the time, had recently moved to Maine from Alaska, and were unfamiliar with Waterville.

Firefighter John Gromek was outside the fire station when the Clarks arrived.

“I ran for the (obstetrics) kit and all the other stuff,” Gromek said.

Gromek and other firefighters recalled the details last week outside the station as they reunited with Terri Clark and Robert, now old enough to understand the significance of his birth.

The blond, blue-eyed, freckle-faced 9-year-old didn’t hesitate when asked if he knew what 9/11 was all about.

“The twin towers,” he said. “They got crashed by planes, by terrorists.”

But he also knows that, while the 9/11 events were tragic, his birth the following year brought joy to his family and others, and he will always have a connection to the Waterville Fire Department.

“It’s kind of cool,” he said.

His birth that day took firefighters’ minds off the sadness of the anniversary, and best of all, they helped bring new life into the world.

“It’s certainly something you can’t forget,” said firefighter Robert Shay, who delivered the baby and for whom the child was named. “We were all set and ready to do a memorial service and the whole day changed without even trying.”

The incident drew national attention. The Clarks and firefighters were interviewed by the “Today” show, “Good Morning America,” People magazine and other news outlets.

The Clarks now live in Winslow, where Robert is in third grade at Winslow Elementary School. He plays football and baseball, wrestles and shows horses and beef and dairy cows at agricultural fairs with his mother and brothers.

He stood last week at the exact spot in the alley next to the fire station where he was born.

Capt. Roland LaCroix, the captain on duty that day, didn’t actually get to see the birth because he had gone home to change into his formal attire for the memorial ceremony.

“When I got back, they told me all about it,” LaCroix said. “Things must’ve happened bang, bang, bang.”

Then-Fire Chief Ray Poulin, who is now retired, told a reporter at the time that, just as the baby was born, someone asked what time it was and Gromek’s wife, Nicole, who had come by the station to drop off uniforms for the remembrance ceremony, called out “8:46 a.m.”

It was only later that firefighters realized the significance of the time.

Morning Sentinel Staff Writer Amy Calder can be contacted at 861-9247 or at:

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