Everyone remembers where they were ten years ago today when they learned the news of the terrorist attacks. I was a high school sophomore sweating out biology class when another student ran in, telling us to turn on the news, and it’s fair to say I lost a lot of my innocence that day. All of us did.
Today, while driving back from vacation in Rhode Island, I passed within eyeshot of both Manhattan and Washington, D.C., and with the radio broadcasting the memorial ceremonies and replaying coverage from that awful day, it’s easy to find myself back in the terrified mindset of a previously naïve teenager. A few months after the attacks, I wrote a poem to try and capture my still-fearful feelings and memories of the day. My experience as a high school student in North Carolina who didn’t personally lose anyone and wasn’t physically close to the sites of any of the crashes doesn’t come close to the devastation felt by those who experienced or felt the effects firsthand. However, spending the day (and the weeks and months that followed) glued to the TV and worrying about the unknown is how most of America processed what happened. I doubt any of us have lived a day in the ten years since when we haven’t remembered.
The below poem was written in November 2001 and attempts to capture my thoughts following the attacks. A sculptor who received scrap metal from Ground Zero created a work of art titled “The Gates” and inscribed the last section of the poem in his piece. Although it’s clearly written by the simple hand of an unpolished student, I hope it is seen as a tribute to those who died and those who live on in their memory.
In Tribute — Sept. 11, 2001
Going to school that morning, I never would have believed
Sitting in first period, I was so naïve
Second period, Bio, I saw the second tower fall
Third period, news is on, that’s when I saw it all
Fourth period, gym, no planes in the sky
Riding the bus home, I thought I was gonna die
Is this Armaggedon? The beginning of the end?
We didn’t know who was the enemy, didn’t know who was our friend
Got home, saw the news, all that smoke in the sky
Wasn’t my dad on a plane today? Alone, I sat and cried
I was terrified, who was on our side?
Was it possible all those people died?
It didn’t seem real, how could it be true?
The heart of our nation, we had to start anew
Three symbols of our country, shattered into dust
We didn’t know who was behind this, didn’t know who we could trust
Then the rumors started, the stories of the heroes
All the people saving others, martyrs at Ground Zero
Men who carried helpless ones, a hundred stories down
People stopped the terrorists over a Pennsylvania town
Then the tears turned to cheers as we all start to fight
The men who tried to destroy all
Will pay, we’ll bring them to the light
America will be strong, we’ll get them in the end
No one can conquer our spirit, our pride we shall defend.
So, does that star-spangled banner yet wave?
Over the land of the proud, and the grave of the brave?
Yes it does.
And it ain’t ever coming down.