I wrote the poem below on September 27, 2001. It is one of several poems I wrote in response to the attacks of September 11. This poem resulted from my asking the question I’m sure many Americans asked themselves: What was it like to be in the World Trade Center towers on that fateful day? The poem, along with commentary, can also be found on my Web site here.
Falling from the Sky
by Lionel Deimel
My mind rejected the truth it knew when the first tower fell.
Expecting the second collapse, it rejected that reality also.
How many lives had I just seen truncated?
What was it like?
How had they died?
What became of those who telephoned at once to say they were all right but who were never heard from again?
What happened to those on lower floors who waited too long to become alarmed?
Did they know what was happening?
What did they hear?
What did they smell?
Was immolation by jet fuel worse than the fire felt by Joan of Arc?
Those who jumped must certainly have thought so.
The air was fresh,
And one could fly,
At least for a moment.
The second plane penetrated the wall like a heavy object dropped onto a cake.
Was anyone staring out the window as it became larger and larger?
Could they see into the cockpit?
Was the pilot smiling?
Was he serene?
The lucky ones died instantly of trauma,
Hearing only a loud crash before being overtaken by a dark, eternal silence.
Were they spared fear?
Did they gasp?
Did they pray?
Stairwells were filled with smoke and water and people,
Their downward journey slowed by the firefighters and hoses on their way up.
How many almost made it out?
How many fell?
How many gave up?
As steel buckled and failed under assault from the terrible fire,
Was it worse to be above, as the floor slipped away, or below?
Did people understand the meaning of that monstrous roar?
Did time stop?
Did they go mad?
As the end came, space was no longer filled with air but became a maelstrom of angry particles
Fired from millions of machine guns pointed in every direction.
Could any bodies even remain whole?
Was there pain?