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Resonant with death the great towers dwindled
Into the dust of indelible, dreaded debris.

Spectacular visibility ushered unimaginable visions
Seering the soul in a screaming city rent asunder,
Fractured in the vacuum left by terror's thunder.

The sirens and the ringing tanks of life were caught
On tape to be replayed in shocking fright. Would night never come?
Would the city, the nation, the world, ever be the same, or succumb
To the finality of berserk men, beyond their tethers, their honeycomb?

Reeling from such horrific, trembling onslaughts
Humanity would arise, head bowed, fist clenched, jaw tight,
In vigils and leaflets of the lost that terrible night.

The city shuddered and found so many - too many - heroes
And it was time to shed egos.

Gasping for the sweet breath of reason,
Citizens despaired such desperate poison.

The dust rose high, very high, for more than a week, the fires kept on burning,
The pain just increased though eased by the unexpectedly steady leads
Of Giuliani and Pataki and Bush
And executives and entertainers and schoolchildren
All searching the depths of their hearts, resolutely loving, seeking to unimagine.

Compassion and anger mounted their apocalyptic steeds
Wrestling with the confounded mess the giant compression - of such deeds.

A young woman and a young man offered candles to strangers
Beneath a gilded statue at the city's center and peddlers sought out flags to sell.

The jagged, twisted fragments of the target towers marked the spot
Where America was attacked, where the innocent perished, where the heroes trod.

Stiffened resolve and resilient hopes for rebuilding
Mixed with worse fears of more damage, hurt, suffering.

Headlines could not get bigger, nor hearts more fragile.
Each breath is more intrepid and precise, intense and precious.

The gutted, wrenched, scarred city has survived,
Sane but not the same and more gracious in its grief.

People do count more than bricks and mortar.
Their humble memories rally and reverberate
And make the dwellers of these canyons deliberate
With sorrow that only time can perhaps liberate.

Carter B. Horsley

See The City Review article on the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks

Home Page of The City Review