National Tragedies, Silent Tragedies

Yes, I Dare to Compare September 11th and Adoption

So it’s the Saturday night before September 11th,  and that means that both Discovery and History channel are both loaded with new 9/11 specials. I, of course, must carefully line them all up, happy that they repeat themselves so I can watch them all in turn. I prepare to cry.

I can’t help, but to once again, compare the feeling that arise upon the anniversary of Nine Eleven to the feelings of adoption.  And that’s not me making a cheap comparison or just trying to bank in on a national tragedy. It’s way more than the fact that I can assume that you can still feel the true horror that September 11th brought upon us all.  Maybe I am just denying the obvious, which is that both  are the same kind of loss and evoke great feelings of grief in me and I just process them the same way, but so strong are these emotions, this overwhelming sadness. Sometimes I don’t know why I torture myself this way.Ritualized Loss, Accepting Grief

I handle adoption the same way. Always have. I ritualize the pain; focus on a book, a date, an evening of planned endless suffering. I know that it might sound odd or strange, but as I have written about before, even if I try to ignore it all, and be ok, it happens upon me anyway.  So you learn to take it as it comes. At least when you plan it, you kind of meet it head on. I welcome my grief, I guess. Pay it homage, for it deserves it.

I once wrote, what I remember as a good strong piece comparing this kind of continuous grief to a volcano.  It was on Anti-Adoption Insights and I never pulled a copy, so it’s lost forever. Who knows, maybe it sucked. But in it, I compared living with adoption relinquishment to living on a volcano, it’s always hot and simmering beneath the surface of your life. Sometimes it burns low, and sometimes, it burns hot. The pressure builds up, the earth shakes and when it blows, there is nothing but destruction. I think I did about 1000 words hammering that idea home. Maybe I was still rationalizing the typical adoption birthday depression, unlike now, where I know those dark days are normal for birthmothers. Maybe it’s just a planned volcanic eruption and some false measure of control.  I don’t really care why. For one, I know the grief in adoption is healthier if expressed and that alone warrants my attention.

And then, there is the simple fact that this is my child, my son, that I have lost and yes, to a parent of any kind, that’s pretty much the worst horror. So yes, I have to honor this loss even if it is hard for others to understand my reasons.

I feel that about Nine Eleven.

Honoring the Loss

And that’s why I will sit tonight, on the very of hysterics, knowing I will cry, for this day deserves it.

I hear the stories of the living, telling the stories of the dead. Can you see why I was seduced by visions of being a family building savior? I am drawn by these tales of heroics, of grace under pressure and insurmountable odds.  I listen and I cry because I have to honor these stories, their truths. I can hear the power in their telling and I know that they must be heard.

I watch as these human beings, they can’t tell their stories without crying. As my TV flashes now oh so familiar scenes, I see the look in their eyes and I know it all too well. They way they talk about the snapshots that they remember and the visions still burned into their memories.  Even the poor unfortunate man at the airlines who checked in the terrorist’s tickets, is still haunted, his voice still catches.  Even if they don’t admit to it themselves, even if they are seemingly doing well, you know that each and every one of their lives have changed for even playing a small part of that single day.

I heard them say the same phrase I have said of adoption, what I have heard so many of us say:

“I’ll never forget it. I’ll never get over it. Not a day goes by, that I don’t remember. It affects every single part of who I am today. I became a different person that day. “

Even to hear the survived speak of each other, and the connection that they now share due to this tragedy, they sound like us:

“I lost him, but we gained a this whole family”, yes, so much like my only silver lining of adoption.

And again, I know how they feel  in many ways. As I know you do, too.

The Horror of Nine Eleven Shared

Eleven years ago, Rye and I watched that notorious day unfurl from this very same room that I sit now. Scarlett was an infant, Tristan not yet at all, Garin was Scarlett’s age and Max not yet found. In many ways, a lifetime ago, but I can be back there at a moment’s notice;  to me it feels like I can pull forth from my deep reserves, this pain. It’s like unlocking a door, but that also means that it is always there, lurking, smoldering.  The same feelings brought on eleven years ago as I watched back then are immediately right here, beside me, with no loss of potency.

On September 11th, 2001, I had left for work early as I had to go to the bank first. It was there, waiting in line for the teller, that I heard that “something” had happened and it involved a plane and the World Trade Center.  I had wanted to get to the office before nine, but instead, I raced home and pulled Rye out of the bathroom, turning to the news.

We were here together, in this room, when the second plan hit and we cried out in unison.

I watch the papers flutter in the air again and the flames reach for the sky and remember how upset I was thinking about the people trapped above, in the fires, and how so many would die.

I remember thinking that they would never be able to put out those fires in those last few minutes, before it even got worse. They wouldn’t have to put out the fires, as we now all know, because the buildings would fall down, but no one even could image that thought then.  It was just beyond possible thought.

The complete disbelief of watching the first of the Twin Towers fall, even thinking, then still innocent, but where did it go? That what I was seeing as Just. Not. Possible.

Through the  smoke of the first collapse, I was looking as the newscasters talked of another explosion and I was thinking, but I don’t SEE the South Tower. As we never would again.
watching the north tower fall on 911

I remember, so vividly, now trying to work, to put together an interior design color scheme, but glued to the TV. I stood in the living room of the office and cried out again, when the North Tower fell. Now knowing the horror as that antenna sunk lower and lower in the ever widening clouds of dust.The Twin Towers could really have not fallen down.I could not have really given away my baby.

This isn’t real. It can’t be true. It didn’t really happen, right?

With the same horror, my mind tells myself that both. are our sad reality.

And yeah, so I sit around at least once a year and cry.

I still miss the World Trade Center.

I still my son.

I believe I always will.


The terrorist September 11 attacks by Al-Qaeda resulted in almost 3,000 immediate (attack time) deaths, including the 19 hijackers and 2,977 victims.  The immediate deaths include 246 victims on the four planes, 2,606 in New York City in the World Trade Center and on the ground, and 125 at the Pentagon. About 292 people were killed at street level by burning debris and falling bodies of those who had jumped from the World Trade Center’s windows. All the deaths in the attacks were civilians except for 55 military personnel killed at the Pentagon. Some immediate victims were not added to the list until years later. 

 We don’t know the an accurate number of birthmothers separated from their children due to tactics used by the adoption industry because there is not one single agency or government oversight group that tracks these adoption statistics. The best numbers we have are from the 2006 Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute report, SAFEGUARDING THE RIGHTS AND WELL-BEING OF BIRTHPARENTS, which estimate that there are up to 15,000 voluntary infant adoption relinquishment each year currently. We know those numbers were much higher in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. Conservative estimates say that there are 5 million to almost 7 million adoptees in the US and each one of them, has a mother. 

You can make a donation to the 911 Memorial Fund here.


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About the Author

Claudia Corrigan DArcy
Claudia Corrigan D’Arcy has been online and involved in the adoption community since early in 2001. Blogging since 2005, her website Musings of the Lame has become a much needed road map for many mothers who relinquished, adoptees who long to be heard, and adoptive parents who seek understanding. She is also an activist and avid supporter of Adoptee Rights and fights for nationwide birth certificate access for all adoptees with the Adoptee Rights Coalition. Besides here on Musings of the Lame, her writings on adoption issue have been published in The New York Times, BlogHer, Divine Caroline, Adoption Today Magazine, Adoption Constellation Magazine,, Lost Mothers, Grown in my Heart, Adoption Voice Magazine, and many others. She has been interviewed by Dan Rather, Montel Williams and appeared on Huffington Post regarding adoption as well as presented at various adoption conferences, other radio and print interviews over the years. She resides in New York’s Hudson Valley with her husband, Rye, children, and various pets.

25 Comments on "National Tragedies, Silent Tragedies"

  1. Another great blog!

    “I’ll never forget it. I’ll never get over it. Not a day goes by, that I don’t remember. It affects every single part of who I am today. I became a different person that day.”

    My volcano is quiet at the moment but I know that it will erupt again the next time I share my joy that have reunited with my adult son and someone says to me, “Wow! How are his ‘parents’ handling IT?” Then once again I erupt and become overwhelmed with great anger and sadness. sigh …

  2. On 9/11, my oldest son was 10 days from his first birthday. I was three years into an amazing reunion with my first dad. When he and I spoke on that horrific day, I remember thinking “Thank God I decided to search and have him in my life.”

    Then, I thought about how my first mother had wanted nothing to do with me for those same three years and thought “I could have died today and she wouldn’t have known or cared because I was already gone to her.”

    I also thought of the colossal loss of life and the many first mothers and first fathers who would not know that their sons and daughters perished that day–because of the adoption industry and state governments. I also thought of the adoptees who lost their first parents that day without knowing it.

    That’s a story which has never been covered. An angle that is always left right where the adoption industry and state governments want it to be–sealed away and forgotten.

    The thing is, adoptees and first parents never forget the tragic losses of our lives. Never.

  3. The horror of that day was increased for me as I had not been reunited with my son yet; I couldn’t stop wondering if he had died on that horrible day, or perhaps he was one of the brave helping in the aftermath. Just as I had wondered always when hearing of some tragic accident or illness ~ this day was so much more horrific though. A mother should NEVER be left wondering if her child is yet alive, nor be left with no idea where her child is, or how they are doing. It’s inhuman.

    The 1st anniversary of 9/11 came to be another horrible day for me ~ the day we buried my mother. After reuniting with my son, there came to be something to celebrate on 9/11 ~ this year Christopher and his beautiful wife will be celebrating their 8th Anniversary!

  4. Beth Lauren DeFilippo Trankle | September 10, 2012 at 2:33 am |

    I was born 9/11/1967, and was placed for adoption through Childrens Home & Aid Society in Chicago Illinois. The only thing I may know (& its not fact)….my birthmother may have had me baptised Unitarian. Otherwise I’m suppose to be German & possibly a little English.
    Obviously, my birthday is arriving, & I’m still searching for either of my birth parents…ill be 44, I hope theyare both aliveas my adopted father passed in 2001by asudden unresponsive heartattack. I feel. My life is not totally complete……if a birth parent is out there you have 2 granddaughters. 26 & 21they each have a child 26 has a girl age5 and 21 just had a baby boy in july this year. So he’s almost a couple of months old.
    You can reach me at chicagoadoption9111967@
    Thank you for your time

  5. I know I will get flack for this, but I do feel you are off base with this particular comparison, even though I like a great deal of what you write and appreciate your voice as a younger first mother speaking out. No, I will never forget 9/11 either, nor did I ever think I could forget my son. But the two tragedies are very different and do not compare. It does not honor the dead or the living to try to make them the same thing. Your son and my son are alive and we have some contact with them, even if it is not all we want. The families who lost someone on 9/11 will not only never forget, they will never see their loved one again in this life, and they lost them in an instant, in smoke and flames and shock, said goodbye fully expecting them home from work that day as always, but never got to say hello again.

    This kind of comparison does not help others understand our pain as surrendering mothers, it makes us look self-absorbed and oblivious to a horrible national tragedy where thousands died. I have my 9/11 stories too, my husband works in NYC and I was lucky he could call me before communication was shut down. He got out on the ferry and train eventually. My cousin’s son is a NYC firefighter who was in the second wave that went in after the towers went down, and spent months sifting through the rubble in the aftermath search for remains. His Mom did not know till that evening that he was not among the dead from the first wave of heroes. My surrendered son was not communicating with me at the time, but I knew he worked across the street from the WTC. I spent a week fearfully reading the lists of the dead and missing until his company web page came back up and said nobody from that company was lost. My relief was immense at knowing he was alive, even greater at eventually hearing from him that he was out of the country on vacation on Sept.11.

    There is no relief for those who lost someone on that horrible day. Here in the commuter towns in NJ there are many families who will never see their son, daughter, Mom or Dad again, including one from my parish where a special Mass is said every year. They would gladly give up this memorial to have their son back again. I really cannot compare my adoption loss, hard as it has been, to the pain of those families. Honor the dead, and honor the living, and think about the kind of comparisons you make. I know you meant well, but this is hard to take and does not help our cause.

    • Sorry Maryanne, but I was talking about the feeling that I have for both personally, and as Linda said, it is about my feelings. I actually thought about putting a disclaimer in saying basically “no DOH, I KNOW that adoption is way different because we didn’t DIE” but decided that it would actually be insulting to readers I had already made it clear that I wasn’t jumping on link bait and that the gist of my point was clear enough.. Plus, anyone who knows me KNOWS my love of my NY.. I too knew many people lost that day. My family is generations of NYPD with a strong mix of FDNY. so I’d be insulting myself if there was offense to be taken.

      The true comparison was the feelings of survivors. The need for the telling. The need for the honoring and the dealing with the grief on an anniversary date. How human beings deal with trauma and the aftermath.

      It might be helpful if you read and look for things that are right, rather than what is wrong.

  6. “Help our cause”?? I disagree, Maryanne. Damn…and I was on a roll with agreeing with you!! LOL!

    Claud was not comparing losing a child to the adoption machine to the national tragedy of 9/11, she was simply comparing the FEELINGS evoked when such anniversaries roll around.

    I totally agree with you Claud. The emotions that come from anniversaries from events like these are similar to adoption trauma. We will never forget where we were, what we were doing at that time, and the feelings come rushing back on each anniversary.

  7. Right on! I can remember the ‘reeling” from that moment on that day. I likened it to when I was a very little girl,(grew up abused), and hearing my Mom coming up the stairs, or into the room I was in. I would begin to panic, to look around, almost as if to find a way out, no where to go..what can I do…what can I do…how can I get out of here? That IS the exact feeling of 9/11, as well as the surrendering of my twin sons, and even though it is 26 yrs later…still hits me like a heart attack!
    Claud, thank you,very thought provoking analogy;)
    I often tell people I went and had myself “spade” so as to never , ever forget, my failings in not fighting hard enough!
    Many many prayers to those who lost “their loved ones’, lost their hearts, and lost their will..I get it!
    On a seperate note, 1 yr after 9/11, I was watching a news program (TODAY SHOW?) , Ann Coulter was the guest, she wanted to let ALL ‘those wives/those Mothers’ know , “It has been a year now…come on get over it, get on with your lives, many people lose the people we love…we just don’t milk it, and blame the Government for it.” I shit you not! How many times have we heard something along these lines?
    YIP, 9/11 is very much like adoption!

  8. The Correctors | September 10, 2012 at 11:09 pm |

    Claud said: “It might be helpful if you read and look for things that are right, rather than what is wrong.”

    So, in other words, it’s not a good idea to disagree with you. I agree with lots of what you say too and think original moms have been shafted in all sorts of ways but also find your comparison with 9-11 puzzling (possibly offensive) and think it could turn off lots of people who are open to supporting the unconditional right to OBCs, legally enforced open adoption agreements, and other issues in adoption reform. Your call, I guess.

    Yeah, I had a relative in the towers.

    Claud said: “Which is that both are the same kind of loss.” Is what you said.

    And you would know how?

    Don’t you gain traction in adoption reform by showing that your loss does not equal the win-win situation many naive people suppose it is? Don’t you educate people by showing them what if feels like and what you went through, which is not what they thought you went through? Appropriating this loss strikes me as not really living up to the scrutiny you place on all other comparisons.

  9. This is very deep. My thoughts are with those who are still affected by the 9/11 attacks. I cannot begin to imagine what pain this causes.

  10. Claud wrote:”It might be helpful if you read and look for things that are right, rather than what is wrong.”

    It is hard to see the things that are right in this piece, the fact that neither personal nor national tragedies are ever forgotten or that anniversaries renew grief, which I do see now on re-reading, when one is hit in the face with sentences like the lead-in. “Yes, I Dare to Compare September 11th and Adoption.” “Both are the same kinds of loss” “I heard them say the same phrase I have said of adoption, what I have heard so many of us say: “I’ll never forget it. I’ll never get over it. Not a day goes by, that I don’t remember. It affects every single part of who I am today. I became a different person that day. ” and finally “And again, I know how they feel in many ways. As I know you do, too.”

    You do say other things as well and issue a few disclaimers, but what comes across most strongly is that the loss of child surrendered to adoption is the same kind of loss as those of Sept.11 2001, and that we know how those who lost a loved one that day feel. Speaking for myself, I do not know that feeling, Thank God! We all know the grief and pain we feel as American people because of what happened on that awful day, and are moved by the stories of survival, heroism, and loss, but that is not the same as having lost a loved one to death in that tragedy or any other where people were violently killed.

    Our own grief and pain because of adoption is enough in itself and needs to be told, but comparisons like this just muddy the waters for most people. I know you are saying we hurt too, we lost too, which is true, but the comparison does not really hold up. I can sympathize with those who lost someone on that dark day, but I have not had a comparable experience, and my tears on that day are not the same as those I have shed for my own son, a heartbreaking and life-changing experience, but not a death, not a permanent loss. Again, speaking only for myself, I do not grieve for my son any more because he is alive and living a good life and lets me know something about it. I have not had to grieve forever. I do have hope of seeing him again, alive and well.

    That is a huge difference not to be glossed over when making comparisons. We do need to educate people about how tragic adoption has been for many of us, but in my opinion this is not the way to do it. I hope we can agree to disagree on this.

  11. Okay . . . really?!?!?! Here is a post that could do so much in letting mothers know they are normal when – – -even eleven years later – – – grief might take over and leave them a blubbering, wrecked mess.

    And yet, instead of seeing that Claud was making the comparision of how grief doesn’t always go away and can hit us at any time, it’s more important to have some argument about whether or not she was suggesting that the grief mothers who lost their children to adoption is the same as those who lost loved ones in the horror of 9/11.

    I didn’t get that at all. She wasn’t suggesting the griefs were the same, or one was equal to another. It was the dealing with the grief. The reality that it can hit you at any time. That it doesn’t matter if its been a day or a decade, it’s a perfectly normal reaction to still find yourself mourning, grieving what you have lost.

    For those who claim they usually respect what Claud has to write, how can you doubt what she is writing now? Her words could go so far in helping others dealing with grief they might not feel like they have a right to feel. For them, she is using a tragedy we all know and can relate to, so they can see, themselves, that they aren’t weird or wrong for what they are feeling. Let’s not take that away from them. If you respect Claud and her writings, respect her enough to let her help those who need it without suggesting she is something she has never been and never will be.

    I loved this post, Claud. And I hope others will read and understand just how deeply grief, of any kind, can affect us, no matter how many years, decades, have passed.

  12. Claud is absolutely right. Tragedy brings out ALL of the past tragedys in your life. When I think of 9/11, I think of my son, placed for adoption because my only option given me was homelessness. I think of my father who battled congestive heart failure for 2 long, terrible years. I even think of my dog that I loved so much that unexpectedly died one day. DO NOT tell anyone, whether they are a relinquishing mother or not, that their grief is not as horrendous as someone else’s grief. While none of my things are a “national tragedy,” they are still a tragedy to me. And, unfortunately, if I said “I lost my son in 9/11” I would get the “OMG – I am so very sorry.” But when people learn I lost my son through adoption, I have been asked “Why? Were you a drug addict or something?” I wasn’t, but how would someone feel if you said you lost a relative in 9/11 and their answer was “well, they shouldn’t have worked there in the first place!”

  13. The comments of anon 7:08 make my original point completely.

  14. It’s Claud’s blog, and if she truly believes that loss from the 9/11 tragedy is, in her own words, “the same kind of loss” as loss from adoption, obviously it’s not for me or anyone else to tell her otherwise.
    As another woman who lost a child to adoption, I have to say I don’t feel the same way. The anniversary of the tragedy does not stir the same kind of feelings in me as does thinking about the loss of my child, although fifty years later thoughts of that loss still has the power to awaken profound feelings of sadness.

    On September 11th my thoughts move towards those who were most directly affected by the disaster – the people who lost their lives, the families who lost their loved ones, the few actual survivors, the first responders, may of whom have lost their health. It has never occurred to me that a comparison could be made about feelings in response to these two different sorts of tragedy. I do not think my emotional reaction is diminishing of the grief caused by adoption loss, for mother, fathers or adoptees. However, I do think Claud’s comparison diminishes the experiences of the victims of 9/11. Just as the self-pitying complaints of some adoptive parents belittle the feelings of people who have lost kin to adoption.

    Cassi, you seem surprised that anyone who respects much of what Claud says could doubt what she is writing now. I respect Claud for the good work that she has done, but that doesn’t mean I should defer to her when I disagree. Especially when she’s being deliberately provocative and inviting controversy.

    • It was not at all my intention to be “deliberately provocative and inviting controversy.” It was my intention to write about the similarities that I saw and that’s what I did. I certainly did NOT by any attempt “diminishes the experiences of the victims of 9/11”. You may choose to interpret that way if you like as I have no control over that, but my intentions are pretty clear and not negotiable.

  15. Yes, I think agreeing to disagree is prolly our best use of time at this moment! I’d rather not split hairs.

    Funny thing though..and this is a take it however you wish. I was watching yet another 911 special, and in it was a mother remembering the flashback of getting the call confirm that her child was killed on 9-11. And while I am paraphrasing her words now, essentially she said. “I let out this scream, this cry that I wasn’t even aware that I was making. I could make. It was primal, and I realized that this sound was also now national. We all screamed.”

    Did my mind flash to what I have heard so many mothers of adoption repeat of the sounds they made when acknowledging the loss of adoption? Yes. And for the disclaimer. not to compare the losses but to compare the feelings of grief, the way human beings process the grief, how grief in any form affects us over time.

  16. I am really surprised you used this incident as way to compare feelings of grief. A primal scream uttered by a mother in the first shock of being told that her child is dead is a reaction of a different kind than the gradual realization by many mothers who surrendered, including yourself, that giving up a child for adoption was a life-long and tragic loss, not the altruistic act envisioned at the time of surrender. For some, this realization took many years. It was not an instant gut reaction at all.

    The pain in the long run may be similar but the reaction is not and the situation is not the same at all. This is another analogy that does not work.

    • I’m sorry. I am struck by the similarities of the grief process and the feelings over time. Over and over again, I saw them as I paid my annual homage and watched the stories form 9-11. Obviously not everyone does, and that’s fine. I still see them and it looks like others see it too.
      I have already agreed to disagree so take it as you wish. For ME, I see similarities and I choose to write about them.

    • Laurel Ehrichs | September 12, 2013 at 1:11 am |

      Sorry, but our bodies grieve our children relinquished as if they died. Physiological undeniable impact with psychological implications too. I cannot tell you how often I have heard, well at least he’s alive.

      Just a personal example from my own experiences, one of my friends did lose her daughter who was stillborn at 41 weeks. Of all the people who could understand her loss, it was I. And yes, there was that anger and upset that at least mine was still alive somewhere. But in every other way, she and I held that loss in common. While almost everyone else had no idea, we could speak about what was unspeakable and indescribable to others.

      Don’t perpetuate the “well at least they are alive” hogwash that means nothing to the physiological impact of my body reacting to death aka loss of the baby I was supposed to sustain.

  17. I’m sorry to poop in the punch bowl but 9/11? really? I understand that this is your blog and I totally support you to write as much and about whatever you wish, I have to take issue with your self absorbtion however.

    Your emphasis seems to only be about YOU. YOUR pain. What YOU lost. Was your childs adoption benificial to the child? Is the family they are with more able or better suited to care for him?…These questions dont come up…only what YOU need, want,lost,and feel. Now your attempting to align yourself with 9/11 victims and that pain?

    • Yes, well.. as you said it IS my blog. And, yes, I tend to write about what I think on MY blog. Perhaps self absorbed, but that could said about most bloggers then.. or should I say most personal bloggers who open themselves up to write about what they know and share that with whomever cares to read.
      I have found, in the seven years I have been blogging this way that it serves a purpose. By sharing my feelings, others can do the same and it helps to validate what we feel as there are little to no places where Birthmothers have a voice.
      As for your questions, I have written quite a bit on the answers, but rather than supply you with links (which are all on the about section, though you might want to check out the search and reunion pages as well), I will give you the short answers:
      Though I have a sinking feeling that you won’t be able to see it that way.

    • Isn’t adoption a national tragedy too? Thousands more have lost their children, mothers, fathers, grandparents to adoption than to 9/11 terrorists, and the number of deaths caused by adoption may be greater as well, they are just not as easy to count, not so concentrated in time and space, and thus not such a spectacular TV-show…

  18. It’s actually a cool and useful piece of info. I am happy that you shared this useful info with us. Please keep us up to date like this. Thanks for sharing.

  19. (((Claudia))) ~ I remember when you first wrote about the grief feeling like a volcano. That is when I, too, was first waking up, and your writing there helped me tremendously, and still does. So much has happened.

    My First Mother’s birthday is Sept. 11th. The 9/11 Memorials helped me grieve her loss over the years, because they shook me out of numbness. In turn, I feel more whole, but it was so painful.

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