Crystal blue in its brilliance
The air breezy, light and warm
A beautiful day but not perfect
We remarked that there were no clouds
And wonder now, were they frightened away by impending
Horrors to come?
The bliss of our ignorance a comfort still.
A glorious backdrop
For a summer day thrown into sharp contrast
A decent into darkness, confusion and doom.
From ferries, bridges, building windows and street corners…
We came to identify, were slapped hard by, the worst within us
We came to know and taste the hate
We shook from the violation
We cried from the pain, the loss, the fear.
We saw what we should not see
We smelled what no one should smell
We felt, though we could not feel
Our senses blurred and betrayed
Our minds unable to conceive or believe.
A sleepless city silenced and stunned.
From near, explosions ripped through buildings and hearts
Fire and noise and glass and panic
Plummeting potential lost to despair
Then, billowing clouds of smoke and death
From far, the stillness remained for a time. For a time.
As news traveled, streets emptied
No traffic. No people. No noise and, no planes.
Unrelenting rays of sunshine attempted to warm blood run cold
An endless sea of blue sky our only shroud for man-made hell
Heaven a far away witness
As we reached out for desperate consolation.
Crystal blue in its brilliance.
It took me 3 years, after witnessing the explosions on September 11th, from a Staten Island ferry set to take off for Wall Street, to write this poem. What could not be conveyed on the Evening News was the smell of death that hung over the city for weeks as the fire continued to burn from within. That the National Guard stopped us in cars and buses to sweep for bombs before we drove over bridges and into tunnels or patrolled commuter buses, staring us down, to ensure there weren’t terrorists in our midst. That the only sound that we heard at first, and what persisted for weeks and months were sirens from police and fire department vehicles. That no matter where you went, from supermarket to library, there were pictures of those who perished, plastered everywhere. And so many funerals that whole streets were blocked off and traffic diverted, for them to take place. Funerals that went on for years. That FDNY firehouses lost large numbers of men, my fire department having lost 11 (11 in Heaven). That people were panicking-in subways when hysteria set in and in underwater tunnels when traffic was stopped on the FDR highway for the huge metal beams from the WTC to be transported to barges. That in a city with 3 major airports and constant air traffic, the resulting silence was deafening when that traffic came to a halt. And when planes took to the skies again, people held their breath or panicked when planes went overhead or seemed to fly too close. Not to mention that only two months after the attacks on September 11th, there was a major plane crash in Queens, NY, where another 260 people died and which sent us all over the edge again. And that if there was a possible threat, the city would shut down essential bridges and tunnels leaving people stranded or unable to return to their homes for hours. The effects of this day lasted years and for those who lost loved ones, a lifetime.
We Will Never Forget all who lost their lives and all who worked “the pile” to reclaim the World Trade Center and our city, piece by piece.