September 11th 2001. I was driving to a morning college class when NPR started reporting that an aircraft of some kind had crashed into the side of the World Trade Center. No one yet understood the scope of what had happened, but within the hour we all knew. Right after class, the school day basically ended as the horror was revealed and video feeds started coming in. My fellow students and I sat in one of the auditorium classes watching it all unfold on a big screen. We stared in disbelief at what we were seeing and the conversations started, “Who did this? What does it mean to all of us? How will our lives change? I think many of us still struggle with some of those questions.
As a writer, I dealt with some of my own emotions by creating a poem shortly after the 9/11 disaster. I hope you all remember in your own way and keep asking those questions.
Stories strewn everywhere–
Imprinted on our world,
Filtered through lenses, written in lines;
Chronicles of heroism and horror
Relayed in broadcasts and recounted,
Until twisted into steel images
Suffused with the survivor’s
Burden of bearing witness.
Stories embedded in memory
Are conveyed in image and artifact:
A wall of smoke, looming;
Two skyscrapers, gone;
A Pennsylvania field, gouged.
A miraculous montage bears witness
To the borrowed stories
Preserved in lost shoes,
A briefcase, a baseball cap,
The facade of the Pentagon,
Its encrusted door, broken distorted,
Akin to the stooped bent shoulders
Of a Rodin Sculpture–
Crushed beneath the ruin.
Rescue these disasters,
Neither explain nor analyze–
It is too soon for that.
The fallen so easily relinquished
To ash and concrete dust;
The lives lost and lives spared;
Lives given over–buried