And I hold onto that. (In remembrance of 9/11)

Okay, so I’ve done a terrible job at keeping up with this thing. Expect a make-up post involving all the details of the last month. Trust me, it’s been a busy one! But I wanted to share with you all a poem that I first read my sophomore year of college. For English 1102, we were required to choose a poem or narrative from our book and then complete an analysis on it. I chose Leap by Brian Doyle. The poem is about 9/11 and after my analysis, I discovered that it is indeed pretty accurate. It’s based on eyewitness accounts from 9/11 and I find it quite powerful. It stuck with me and I think about it every year.

Leap
A couple leaped from the south tower, hand in hand. They reached for each other and their hands met and they jumped.

Jennifer Brickhouse saw them falling, hand in hand.

Many people jumped. Perhaps hundreds. No one knows. They struck the pavement with such force that there was a pink mist in the air.

The mayor reported the mist.

A kindergarten boy who saw people falling in flames told his teacher that the birds were on fire. She ran with him on her shoulders out of the ashes.

Tiffany Keeling saw fireballs falling that she later realized were people. Jennifer Griffin saw people falling and wept as she told the story. Niko Winstral saw people free-falling backwards with their hands out, like they were parachuting. Joe Duncan on his roof on Duane Street looked up and saw people jumping. Henry Weintraub saw people “leaping as they flew out.” John Carson saw six people fall, “falling over themselves, falling, they were somersaulting.” Steve Miller saw people jumping from a thousand feet in the air. Kirk Kjeldsen saw people flailing on the way down, people lining up and jumping, “too many people falling.” Jane Tedder saw people leaping and the sight haunts her at night. Steve Tamas counted fourteen people jumping and then he stopped counting. Stuart DeHann saw one woman’s dress billowing as she fell, and he saw a shirtless man falling end over end, and he too saw the couple leaping hand in hand.

Several pedestrians were killed by people falling from the sky. A fireman was killed by a body falling from the sky.

But he reached for her hand and she reached for his hand and they leaped out the window holding hands.

I try to whisper prayers for the sudden dead and the harrowed families of the dead and the screaming souls of the murderers but I keep coming back to his hand and her hand nestled in each other with such extraordinary ordinary succinct ancient naked stunning perfect simple ferocious love.

Their hands reaching and joining are the most powerful prayer I can imagine, the most eloquent, the most graceful. It is everything that we are capable of against horror and loss and death. It is what makes me believe that we are not craven fools and charlatans to believe in God, to believe that human beings have greatness and holiness within them like seeds that open only under great fires, to believe that some unimaginable essence of who we are persists past the dissolution of what we were, to believe against such evil hourly evidence that love is why we are here.

No one knows who they were: husband and wife, lovers, dear friends, colleagues, strangers thrown together at the window there at the lip of hell. Maybe they didn’t even reach for each other consciously, maybe it was instinctive, a reflex, as they both decided at the same time to take two running steps and jump out the shattered window, but they did reach for each other, and they held on tight, and leaped, and fell endlessly into the smoking canyon, at two hundred miles an hour, falling so far and so fast that they would have blacked out before they hit the pavement near Liberty Street so hard that there was a pink mist in the air.

Jennifer Brickhouse saw them holding hands, and Stuart DeHann saw them holding hands, and I hold onto that.

As each year passes, I think about this poem and the tragic events that our nation suffered. I think about what it was like in 3rd grade to be told that we couldn’t have recess that day. What it was like to see teachers trying to hide their emotions. What it was like to see kid after kid get checked out of school. What it was like to come home and find out what had happened earlier that day. What it was like to see the towers falling and knowing, but not fully comprehending until many years later, that many people lost their lives that day.

I think about the changes made after 9/11. No longer could I watch my mom fly off in a plane on her business trips. We began to sing the national anthem after saying the pledge every morning before school. We started calling them freedom fries, though that didn’t last long.

I think about the lives of many Americans that were forever altered that day by the acts of cruelty and terror. I think about how some children, even my age, lost parents that day. How someone’s wife, husband, daughter, son, father, mother, friend, lover, etc. no longer returned to the normalcy of their lives as time had passed, like those of us who were not affected as much as they had been so easily did.

I think about how our country rallied together and how love won.

And I think about how different our country is today. How easily we’ve strayed. How easily we’ve become complacent or unappreciative of the things we have. How everyone is fighting and even losing lives. How divided we’ve come.

And then I think about this poem.

Their hands reaching and joining are the most powerful prayer I can imagine, the most eloquent, the most graceful. It is everything that we are capable of against horror and loss and death. It is what makes me believe that we are not craven fools and charlatans to believe in God, to believe that human beings have greatness and holiness within them like seeds that open only under great fires, to believe that some unimaginable essence of who we are persists past the dissolution of what we were, to believe against such evil hourly evidence that love is why we are here.

Jennifer Brickhouse saw them holding hands, and Stuart DeHann saw them holding hands, and I hold onto that.

And I hold onto that. 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s