September 12

I wrote this poem in 2006, 5 years after the events of 9/11. On 9/12/2001 I tried to get as close to ground zero as was permitted at the time. I can’t remember how far south I got before I hit the police barricades; but I knew it was somewhere between West 4th and Canal street. There were hundred of us out there. We were all just standing around; I’m not sure why I was down there. Not sure anyone else knew why they were there either. I looked south and could see the giant plume of smoke that was coming from the where the Twin Towers stood just a day earlier. I remember there was this middle age Cuban gentleman standing next to me. He turned to me and said in Spanish, ‘You see all these white people thought we were the bad ones (meaning Latinos) but it was those fucking Arabs that they had to worry about all along”. It took me a second to register what the gentleman had said to me. I should have told him that this was neither the time nor the place for ignorant, racist, bullshit. But I didn’t say a word. I just nodded my head and went back to looking at the plume of smoke. A few minutes later a fire truck came through the police barricade that stopped us from getting any closer. The cherry red truck was blanketed with this pale soot. The folks around me began to clap and cheer the fire fighters as they drove by. But those first responders they were somewhere else. They never bothered to acknowledge us. They just looked straight ahead and drove passed us. 

There was a surreal element to that day. It has stayed with me all these years. Probably always will. That’s what inspired the poem below.

Landsat 7 image of Manhattan on September 12, ...
Landsat 7 image of Manhattan on September 12, 2001. The picture shows a smoke plume spreading over large portions of the city, from the World Trade Center attack. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

September 12

September 12th,

Somewhere between West 4th

And Canal.

We stood quietly,


Hundreds standing together

 in solitude.

Clinging in the wind,

Scent of charred rubber.

Police stood in sentry

Of the barricades.

Like holy men

Protecting a sacred sight.

In the distance

Smoke from underground inferno,

Rose to the Godless havens.

Blazes, intense, like the hatred that created it.

A fire engine,

Rushed out.

Its red luster


 By fine pale soot,

 That now blanketed the globe.

Entombed within,

The emotionally drained corpses

Of still breathing men.

We stood in attention,

Giving respect,

Like folks once gave to funeral processions.

A pair of hands unconsciously clapped,

And then another,

And another.

Before it was all said and done,

We all cheered those men on.

With both pride,

And pity.

But they never acknowledged us.

They just rode on.

In silence.

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