Today I awoke to a beautifully cool, crisp September morning with a brilliant blue sky – a Tuesday morning very like the day sixteen years ago when the twin towers of the World Trade Center fell. Like millions of Americans, I have vivid memories of that ghastly morning embedded in my brain – the endlessly repeated images of the towers engulfed in smoke, then crumbling incredibly into nothingness, followed by photos of the aftermath at Ground Zero. Those tragic images captured by the mass media are engraved in our country’s collective consciousness.
But I have more immediate, personal images of the World Trade Center, and especially the beautiful restaurant near its summit, Windows on the World. In 2002, a few months after the disaster, I wrote this poem. Sixteen years later, it still evokes memories of more innocent, trusting times. I’ve published this poem on my blog before, but it feels appropriate to post it again today.
In Memoriam: Windows on the World
I see myself alone, perched high above the city, sipping Chardonnay.
Scribbling in my journal, creating affirmations, visualizing incredible success.
My novel tops the Times Best Seller List.
Boundless abundance and bliss are mine.
An eternity of emptiness waits just beyond the window walls.
The sky is blazing blue. Helicopters buzz below me, fat bumble bee chariots
ferrying the wealthy of Wall Street. I’d never ride in one – too dangerous.
But the jets are another story. They gleam above the water, across the harbor,
Floating heavenward as if by magic as Lady Liberty waves her stony farewell.
I’m afraid of flying, so I focus on the destination.
A couple of quick drinks at the airport help enormously.
The waiter brings my second glass of wine and replenishes my bowl of nuts.
His attitude is cordial yet respectful, and I feel totally pampered as I sink back
in my plush velvet chair. As the sun sinks over New Jersey,
the handsome young pianist at the baby grand begins a Gershwin tune.
Life hardly gets any better than this.
My husband doesn’t like to come here.
The empty sky unnerves him, and he doesn’t trust the building’s engineers.
So when I visit New York City, I sometimes make this solitary pilgrimage
To empower myself atop the World Trade Center, at the Windows on the World.
Twenty years have passed; catastrophe has struck.
I’m older, and the world is darker now.
Thousands of people died on that cloudless September morning,
too many to comprehend, much less to mourn. I may be selfish, but
it’s easier to mourn the towers, the dreams they stood for, and to grieve
the knowledge that I’ll never again ride the elevator to that amazing aerie in the sky.
I never did publish that novel, but I’ve got another one ready to go.
My dreams have come down to earth.
Now I nourish them at home, on the lake, in my garden.
Being grounded has its own rewards.
Patricia Stoltey says
What a lovely poem and memoriam. Julie. I was only on the top of one of the towers one time…it was 1984 and my first time in NYC. I can hardly bear to look at those old photos because it still hurts to think of the people who were there on 9/11.
Marilyn E. Rothstein aka: M. E. kemp says
My neighbor, who lived across the street from the twin towers at the time, forgot all about 9/11! Not until we saw the stirring sight of a fire engine in Ballston Spa hanging a huge flag over the road from its hook and ladder did it remind her of what she was immediately affected by! She had to vacate her apt. and move in with a friend for several months. The funny thing was that she was on a errand of mercy to bring books to the Schoharie library, which just reopened after the disastrous flood! Marilyn
Thanks for your comments, Patricia and Marilyn. I’m always acutely aware of the date, especially when the sky reminds me of 9-11. It also reminds me of September 7, the date my father died in 1975, on a similarly beautiful morning.
About my poem: rereading it a decade later, I can see many ways I could improve it – I like to think my poetic “ear” has improved over the years – but I’ve chosen to let it stand as is. And WordPress has messed up the original formatting a little, but correcting it is tricky and sometimes just makes it worse, so again, I’m letting it stand.
Julie Lomoe says
The morning of Monday, September 11, 2017, dawned with a glorious azure blue sky here in upstate New York. Republishing this poem is becoming an annual tradition, but this year I’m especially conscious of our great good fortune in the Northeast when I consider the devastation Mother Nature has wreaked on Texas and Florida with hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Alas, human beings have helped bring about this catastrophic change in our global climate. I pray it’s not too late to reverse it.