Remembering 9/11

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The Watchers

Gary Allison Furr. September 11, 2020

I wasn’t on a plane, or a family member receiving frantic calls,

I was not one of the air traffic controllers or military leaders

Or an advisor to the President. I wasn’t at the Pentegon that day

Or even a taxi driver or cop on duty in New York that day.

I sometimes wished to have been more useful as the Towers fell,

Reaching out to help someone else or at least console them.

LISTEN to Gary read “The Watchers”

I was a witness like the rest, but I was where I’ve been since then,

Watching on television, failing at first to understand what was happening.

I knew people on planes that got stuck somewhere, and know people

Who knew people who were on the planes.

But I am just one of the Americans who watched with disbelief, then despair,

And then rage. I wanted annihilation, if I’m honest,

of the merchants of Nihilism guised as a religion,

who hijacked their own faith along with the planes into fanaticism,

carrying us all into a cauldron of misery and death and revenge.

Justice is as elusive now as then, consequences were dealt but no one seems to have learned.

A generation starting their lives changed course,

And Lord, the mourning, etched on us, next to Challenger and Columbia

And Saigon and tsunamis and Katrina and Pearl Harbor for the eldest,

Who remembered shock and fear when there was no instant news.

I was just there, helpless, watching with everyone else,

Paralyzed, then on high alert, then grieving and outraged.

We prayed. We read stories, of lives and people and restaurant workers

Of miraculous escapes, brave firemen and women, lucky misses

Bodies, surrendering to the inevitable, hurtling to the ground

To die by choice rather than smoke and fire. We wanted to know

about the enemies who did this and their perverted spirituality,

their hate of us, their idolatry of a cult of destruction and a single man who caused it,

And we read about war that came to us and mushroomed,

Dead sons and daughters and the boiling clouds of poison and bloodshed

Across the region where three religions were born and peace always goes to die.

And most of all, we watched the cities, the centers of our economic and political lives

Brought to a complete and unnatural stop.

I prayed and led memorials, put out my flag on the mailbox, and prayed some more.

“We’ll never forget this,” we said, and for a while we meant it, truly did.

But time moves on and the present presses memory aside for the next terrible darkness.

Now there are those who don’t remember it at all. And the Pearl Harbor guardians,

They are gone, almost all. Now it is up to those of us who were there.

We can remember every terrible piece of that time, not alone but together.

We can remember stories and read them, cultivate decency and help for each other,

Try to remember how just for a short time we stopped complaining about our lot in life

And blaming one another. For just a while, we revered the dead and honored the heroic.

For one bittersweet episode, our pride and competitive ruthlessness gave way

To family and neighbor and the brevity of things.

There were terrible reactions, and there were stupid people who did thoughtless things

But more often there was a determination not to forget, to comfort the grieving

And to hold onto the deepest about us.

God, we need it back.


One day, we went to the memorial, stared down into that terrifying waterfall

Pouring down, down, disappearing into the earth. It is hard to look at,

And saw families stopping next to names cut out in the ribbon of memory,

Some touching one, perhaps their son or sister or father or friend.

They paused, or left flowers or a note, a wailing wall for Americans.

I saw names I recognized from that day and from my years of remembering,

People who were about an ordinary day, flying to a business meeting,Or to start a vacation, or driving to

the restaurant with the best view To have coffee and breakfast

when the Evil same upon us the earth

And so I remember how fast all can disappear

And hope in a time when we cannot seem to speak to friends

Who voted differently or who don’t share our ideas

That we won’t forget what it felt like to be united in sorrow

And humbled by death

And laid down our selfishness for a holy indignation for what had been done.

I will carry these memories as long as i can, try to hand it on,

tell its stories, and let them speak.

4 comments

  1. Wow – just so honest, raw and moving. I’d love to share on FB if you don’t mind?

    Sent from my iPhone

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