I am from Long Island and currently work in New York City, but on September 11th, 2001, I was in college at SUNY Binghamton. Woke up around noon, with a bunch of voicemails and AIM Instant Messages. My brother simply wrote: “evacuation”, and I freaked out because he worked in the Chrysler Building so I knew something big must have happened.
I turned on the TV, and after I saw the replays of the planes hitting and the towers collapsing, I was simply numb for awhile. Didn’t hear from my brother for four hours, which may have been the longest four hours of my life, until I got word that he was OK.
Then, found out my friend Paul was missing. He was never found, as he was in the first tower and didn’t make it out. He was 22.
I look back on the past ten years and I just can’t believe, after all this time, I’m now 32, yet Paul is still 22. Time flies, except on that Tuesday morning, when it completely STOPPED……….
Ten years. How is that even possible? It’s crazy how a full decade can feel like so long ago yet also gone in the blink of an eye, and the below poem is my personal remembrance of this paradoxical time:
he sees ten years going by in a blur
(Tuesday morning is stuck out of the blur)
he’s just not sure he’ll be a good dad
(Fireman Pete must have been a good dad)
he’ll never quite make it in radio
(Paul would have made it in radio)
he plays a tape spooled with bits and pieces
(he breaks down into a million pieces)
says hello to Fireman Pete
has a chat with Paul on the air
before they both sign off…
he can only bare to whisper:
I know we all have our own stories about where we were on that day, about who we lost, how we were affected, and how we learned to cope.
For me, it was music and poetry that helped me survive emotionally. I logged a ton of hours at the Binghamton campus radio station that first week, partially because I felt an obligation to “keep it lit” as they say in the trade, filling what would have been dead air with SOMETHING, anything. The other part, of course, is because I simply didn’t want to be alone, and so at least I had the music and the microphone to keep me company.
As for poetry, well, I wouldn’t have made it through the night of 9/11 without that outlet. We had a candlelight vigil on campus, and we were given an open microphone to say whatever we wanted. Some people just went up there and cried their eyes out, while others offered up thoughts and prayers for people they knew who were missing.
I personally recited a poem I’d scratched out on paper scraps, and born from those scraps were two projects, the second of which I finally completed just yesterday.
The first project was a collection of poems I published in 2008, entitled Half A Lifetime More Or Less, a book that encompasses events and emotions from the first chapters of my adult life.
The second and final part of this project is my latest release, Mobile Poems, a fresh new collection penned during my long and arduous commutes from Long Island to New York City that tracks my emotions and pop cultural observations over the past three years.
Together, these two works are my personal pillars that arose within me from the ashes of the wreckage of September 11th, 2001, and my one saving grace ten years ago was that I somehow found my voice when I needed it most.
As for today, I will certainly cry my eyes out like that girl did at the campus vigil as we all take some time to remember everyone and everything that was lost.
The tears will remind me to NEVER FORGET……….
CB’s two poetry collections — Half A Lifetime More or Less and Mobile Poems — are available now.