Sarah Brown Weitzman
We watched them rise block upon block of glass
and steel into long bands of light
transforming the silhouette of New York
with their triumphant brilliance of height
filling quickly with a babble of languages
of trade, windows on the world, a symbol, a target
on an ordinary September day decades later
when the phone rings: “Turn on your TV! A jet's hit
one of the twin towers!” My friend and I breathe
together in horror as a second plane
flies into the north tower leaving its outline for a moment
like a cartoon creature crashing through a wall.
But this is real. Real. Within a shroud of smoke
the towers crumble and sink where moments before
firefighters marched up to their falling deaths
passing the lucky single-filing down
into air opaque with debris, ash and screams.
What was left was a hole of loss so deep and wide
we couldn't believe it. We had to see it.
Millions came to shuffle along the viewing platform.
Then months of photographs and messages posted on fences,
compiling of an official list of names of the dead and missing
that can never be complete, perhaps, without the real name
of an illegal immigrant kitchen worker or a homeless man
hiding in the lobby or a lone tourist from another country
who may be buried beneath tons of rubble in this
crematorium, a monument still. That day so seared
us, we will remember always where we were when we heard
the news, who we were with, and that last message
a doomed man left on a phone tape, “I'm just calling
to say I'm okay. But if I don't get out of this, I want
you to know that I love you.” If there is a lesson, it's this.