Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Septembers Ago


I have never forgotten a piece Peggy Noonan wrote in the Wall Street Journal a year after the Twin Towers were destroyed. It was called The Fall After Sept. 11, and her words have haunted me for 9 solid years:

"The other day I walked by Saint Vincent's Hospital in downtown Manhattan and thought, as I always do when I walk by: This is where they waited for the wounded. The interns and nurses waited outside right here with gurneys for patients who didn't come. Because so few people were "wounded." The three thousand were dead. What happened to them? They were exploded into air. They became a cloud. We breathed them in."


Times of impact: 8:46 a.m. and 9:02 a.m. Time the burning towers stood: 56 minutes and 102 minutes. Time they took to fall: 12 seconds. 2819 dead from 115 different nations. 343 Fireman/paramedics, 23 NYPD, 37 Port Authority officers.

The stories today all repeat the same rough statistic: "nearly 3000" died in all of the attacks that day. They weren't nearly 3000. They were 2,977 of our citizens and neighbors, who got up on a Tuesday morning, got dressed and went to work, who were murdered by 19 madmen. They all have names, and faces, and stories, and lives they touched in life and in death.

Last year, Vice President Joseph Biden and his wife Jill spoke in New York City at Zuccotti Park. He read portions of the poem "The Builders" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

All are architects of Fate,
Working in these walls of Time;
Some with massive deeds and great,
Some with ornaments of rhyme.

Nothing useless is, or low;
Each thing in its place is best;
And what seems but idle show
Strengthens and supports the rest.

For the structure that we raise,
Time is with materials filled;
Our to-days and yesterdays
Are the blocks with which we build.

Truly shape and fashion these;
Leave no yawning gaps between;
Think not, because no man sees,
Such things will remain unseen.

In the elder days of Art,
Builders wrought with greatest care
Each minute and unseen part;
For the Gods see everywhere.

Let us do our work as well,
Both the unseen and the seen;
Make the house, where Gods may dwell,
Beautiful, entire, and clean.

Else our lives are incomplete,
Standing in these walls of Time,
Broken stairways, where the feet
Stumble as they seek to climb.

Build to-day, then, strong and sure,
With a firm and ample base;
And ascending and secure
Shall to-morrow find its place.

Thus alone can we attain
To those turrets, where the eye
Sees the world as one vast plain,
And one boundless reach of sky.

3 comments:

Mark Koltko-Rivera said...

Noble friend, Thank you for your post. The poem was also thought-provoking in the best of ways.

I would take issue with only one thing. The 9/11 murderers were not "madmen"; they were much worse than that. They were coldly calculating, totally rational, as they planned the deaths of thousands. One may reasonably call them "fanatics." I consider them embodiments of evil, human devils.

This is not just a matter of terminology. To call them "madmen" puts them beyond understanding. But their motives can indeed be understood, and must be understood, in order to stop them and their many associates.

I fault you not at all. Thank you again for your gracious and thoughtful post.

Chris Hodapp said...

Point taken.

THE LOW LIFE said...

Brother,

I was but a few short blocks away from the events of that day and witnessed everything, from start to finish. Television captured only a mere fraction of the horror. The sight of people throwing themselves to their deaths by the dozens and the smell that haunted NYC for the months to follow will forever be seared in to my being.

There was a young man who was a firefighter who lost his life that day by the name of Christian Regenhardt. We were pretty good friends when we were kids, but as things normally go, time leads people away from each other. I was thinking about getting in contact with him a day or two before 9/11, and of course I let the job or some other such nonsense get in the way of reaching out to an old friend.

I just want to thank you for posting this. It is a very hard time of year for a lot of New Yorkers, who on one hand are totally sick of it all and want to move on, but on the other have deep and solemn scars and want to mourn with quiet dignity and to live in peace.

Fra.
Bro. Isaac Ambrose Moore
Mariners Lodge No.67
F. & A.M.
NYC