After September 11th

Do you remember where you were on September 11, 2001? Most of us do.
I remember where I was. I remember what I heard and what I saw.
I also remember words that helped me in the days that followed and ever since
like these from Poet Joan Murray.

Survivors – Found

We thought that they were gone
we rarely saw them on our screens
those everyday Americans
with workaday routines,

and the heroes standing ready –
not glamorous enough –
on days without a tragedy,
we clicked – and turned them off.

We only saw the cynics –
the dropouts, show-offs, snobs –
the right- and left-wing critics:
we saw that they were us.

But with the wounds of Tuesday
when the smoke began to clear,
we rubbed away our stony gaze –
and watched them reappear:

the waitress in the tower,
the broker reading mail,
the pair of window washers
filling up a final pail,

the husband’s last “I love you”
from the last seat of a plane,
the tourist taking in a view
no one would see again,

the fireman, his eyes ablaze
as he climbed the swaying stairs –
he knew someone might still be saved.
We wondered who it was.

We glimpsed them through the rubble:
the ones who lost their lives,
the heroes’ double burials,
the ones now “left behind”,

the ones who rolled a sleeve up,
the ones in scrubs and masks,
the ones who lifted buckets
filled with stone and grief and ash:

some spoke a different language –
still no one missed a phrase;
the soot had softened every face
of every shade and age –

“the greatest generation”? –
we wondered where they’d gone –
they hadn’t left directions
how to find our nation-home:

for thirty years we saw few signs,
but now in swirls of dust,
they were alive – they had survived –
we saw that they were us.