9/11 - a date that will forever be connected to the tragedies in New York, the tremendous loss of life, the attack on American soil, the conspiracy theories, the bravery and self-sacrifice of the police, fire and rescue teams on hand, the incredible courage of a handful of average citizens who decided to take matters into their own hands even though it meant their deaths, and the outrageous lengths of hatred and violence that zealots will go to in the name of a religion that espouses peace before all things.

Like almost everyone else in this country, I watched in horror as real-time television brought this monstrous affront into my home.

Also like almost everyone, I lost someone that I knew, or was connected to in some way, on that infamous day.

As the 10th anniversary of this world-changing event has come and gone, it is clear that some wounds refuse to heal, just as it is clear that there are those who insist on picking at the scabs in order to prolong the bad feeling.

So here is one of two viewpoints I hold regarding this day in history. It is told from the POV of someone who was there, and it has been culled from numerous accounts of folks just like the hapless fellow depicted herein:


I stumbled along those streets,
the ones I had known all my life,
a powdered ghost
deafened by silence.

No longer safe, alive, happy,
my world was reduced to panic, fear, dread,
mouth, filled with gritty burnt flesh,
eyes, unable to not see what was before them.
My heart, racing to escape my chest,
And my legs, unable to support, much less carry

I dropped the bag I had, never to reclaim it,
I lost the life I had, gone forever within a few short minutes.
No matter how hard I look,
I cannot find the me that I was before.

A uniform tried to comfort me, took me aside,
sat me on the curb, a child at a parade.
I recall the feel of the Red Cross blanket, its weight
both comfort and burden
Tears scaled down my face
leaving trails in the kabuki death mask

My eyes drew skyward, looking for the next plane.
The one that would drop a bomb,
the one that would kill us all.
Unsure of how I felt when it never came;
numb agony,
raging fear,
glad to be in one piece,
sick at the burnt bologna smell in the air.

The phone on my hip chirped
a panicked bird in a leather cage.
On the ninth
or ninetieth time
I answered
to hear that voice
of the one I loved.

I was alive.

©2002 Christopher Reilley

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This poem can be found in my collection BREATHING FOR CLOUDS

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