9/11 Poetry

9/11 Poetry

Tuesdays in September – 9/11 Poetry

I have no harrowing story related to the events of 9/11, no personal tragedy. Seven-year-old me was safely tucked away in a classroom at James M. Brown Elementary School. That’s in Walhalla, South Carolina, notable for some suspect Southern hospitality and their annual Oktoberfest. It’s also just a twenty-minute drive down the mountain to the schoolhouse, versus the winding half-hour it takes to reach North Georgia. And though my mother is originally from Long Island, New York and I have extended family in Connecticut, on that Tuesday morning in 2001 as we pulled out of the driveway of our farm, I was more preoccupied with the well being of my puppy than impending terrorist attacks.

My memory is limited as to the particulars of the day itself. I’m sure I wore some sort of overall getup, because that and a big red bow on top of my head was a look I rocked, albeit reluctantly. What I remember is one teacher screaming and several others running. I remember lining up in the hallway, and then, pretty immediately, being ushered back into our classroom. I remember an announcement about the doors being locked. Nothing to write home about. I asked what was wrong, and no one answered. Even the afternoon bus driver pretended not to hear me, and we were great friends.

At home, my parents told me everything they knew, all teary-eyed and pale-faced. We watched the evening news, and I laughed. I’m almost positive this reaction did not go over well.   It seemed silly, like one of those heightened action movies starring Nicolas Cage or Gary Oldman.  And I’m not proud of it, haven’t been for a long while. So some time ago I wrote a poem to make amends, if only for my own conscience. How could I be so callous? Who knows; I was a kid, still am when I’m not keeping tabs. I grew up in a pre and post 9/11 world, during an abstract “war on terror.” And this year, Mother Nature herself is doing all she can for the day not to pass thoughtlessly.

And so I’m thinking of you, whoever you are.




I need another rock like I need a hole in the head.

Another plane has hit Tower Two.

Somebody’s doing this on purpose.

Our children just don’t know it yet.

This is why our parents told us to read the fine print.

It’s called the long road to freedom.

Something like an old Spiritual hums and shimmies.

America delights in the Blues.

There’s a pain in my head.

People enjoy that raw humanity.

Lead me to a new level of thinking.

One thing I learn to do is follow directions from north to south.

You interview someone and they will give you their shoe.

It is a detailed record of every move they made.

The man is to stand with a folded newspaper in his right hand.

Stories break out of buildings up in the air.      

We love to dissect the bewildered laughter.

Look just there, my sweet.

Lower Manhattan is crashing.

Incidentally, my paper cut stings.

The florid woman is to change her clocks presently.

Monday was the last good day of the week.

I cut my grass down to the roots this morning.

Everything beyond my front stoop was becoming a wilderness.

It comes to me that smoke carries no sound.

We all fall back to Zero annually.


By Miriam McEwen


Read other writings by Miriam:

The Young Women’s Guide to Making Bad Matters Worse

Mother’s Milk

Notes on Fight Club

Tuesday’s In September

A Brief Record of Interrupted, Rural Solitude

Graduation, period

Creature Comforts