Tuesday, March 8, 2011

9/11 Plus Ten

I used to work
In the World Trade Center
86th floor of Trade Tower Two
Also known as the South Tower
And I would often look out the window
And I could see airplanes
Flying twenty stories below me
Sometimes it would rain and snow
And the raindrops and snow flakes
Would move upwards in the updrafts
During fire drills
It took half and hour
At best
Under perfect conditions
To evacuate the buildings
With the necessity
Of having to change elevators
On the 32nd floors
The elevators were the size
Of studio apartments
And could carry fifty people
At a time
When there was no panic
In the event of actual fire
The elevators were useless
And the only other means of egress
Were the tower stairs
Miles and miles of stairs
I would often tell my co-workers
That if, God forbid, anything serious
Were ever to actually happen
There was no way we could get out in time
It was best to hope and pray
That no such calamity would ever befall us

I had been separated for some time
from my good State job
By the time that the terrorist attacks
Of 9/11 took place...
Like many millions more
I watched the towers burning on TV
From the comfort and safety
Of my new office in downtown Philadelphia
It had been such a beautiful morning
That fateful day
Crystal clear blue skies
Puffy white clouds
And then the unthinkable happened
As the world watched in horror and disbelief
As the two fuel laden jet liners struck
First Tower One
Then Tower Two
And the terrible black fires
Began to rage and burn
Who could have done such a thing?
To what possible purpose?

I watched in horror
As the people fled the scene
My fellow co-workers still
My fellow Americans
My fellow New Yorkers
And I could only imagine
The particular kind of hell
Those magnificent buildings had become
With so many innocent souls trapped inside
I felt a surge of pride and love
As I watched the fire brigades
And legions of police officers
Rush to the rescue
Fearing the worst
Yet hoping for the best
Who would have believed
That those two giant buildings
Could ever fall?
Who would have believed
That thousands of people
Who had simply gone to work
To do their jobs
To feed their families
And to keep a roof over their heads
Would never again be able to see
Their loved ones ever again?
Over and over
The last phone messages were exchanged
“Honey, you know how much I love you”
“Hug the children for me”
“I don’t think we’re going to make it”
Then came the terrible
The seismic clouds
Of debris, glass and dust
Choking out the light
Blinding the rescue workers
Covering everything and everyone
With a new kind of volcanic ash
And then the deadly silence
With only the chirping of rescue beacons
Chirping like wounded birds
“Over here”
“We are here”
“Look over here”
But there were no bodies to be found
No walking wounded to be treated
And triaged
To be rushed to the waiting ambulances
To fill the empty emergency rooms
The would be first responders waited in vain
For survivors who never came
For all that remained
At the end of that first horrific day
Were those terrible piles of volcanic dust
“For dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return”

Philadelphia, Pa. 2011

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