A View From Downtown (NYC – 9/11)

A big part of me would really like to store 9/ll in a plastic bag and not think about it any more.

Another part of me thinks that would not be such a great idea (even if I could do it in downtown NYC where I live.)

First, because we still have young men and women actively serving in Afghanistan, as a direct response to the event.  Secondly, because the day provides such important cautionary tales.   Third, well, because I swore not to forget it.

So here’s an older poem, and above and below are photos I took in downtown NYC this a.m.  I’ve also included a (rather fraught) reading of the poem.


The burning buildings woke me from a sleep
of what I thought important, nothing now.
I ran hard down the smoking, crumbling street,

praying that my child was mine to keep,
dear God oh please dear god I whispered loud;
the burning buildings woke me from a sleep.

Some stopped to stare, all of us to weep
as eyes replayed the towers’ brutal bow.
I ran hard down the smoking, crumbling street–

North sky a startling blue, the south a heap
of man-wrought cloud; I pushed against the crowd;
the burning buildings woke me from a sleep.

I’d never complain again, never treat
with trivial despair–or so I vowed.
I ran hard down the smoking, crumbling street.

I’d change, give thanks—I saw them leap—
and begged for all the grace God would allow.
The burning buildings woke me from a sleep;
I ran hard down the smoking, crumbling street.

I’m linking this to dVerse Poets Pub’s Open Link Night, hosted by the wonderful  Brian Miller.

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57 Comments on “A View From Downtown (NYC – 9/11)”

  1. hedgewitch Says:

    Oh karin–such an event to relive, to play out again moment by moment. Each year I find it harder, not easier, to wrap my mind around, and try to reject it–but people still are dying, as you point out, from what happened that day, and beyond. A villanelle seems right for this subject, especially yours, looping endlessly, just like the videos of that day played over and over, as if by watching hard enough something might change. Thanks for sharing this–not easy at all, I’m sure.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Thanks, Joy. The weirdest thing (on technical level) was that I never use soundcloud and it kept putting up this crazy cheery facebook photo – but I figured out how to replace that, at least, with something relatively generic.

      You know they have these beams of light at night going up into the sky – I was coming in last night seeing them from afar. Tonight I’ll walk down to them. They are very beautiful, filled with swirls of birds catching the insects attracted to the light. k.

      • hedgewitch Says:

        Ugh–that would be frustrating. (You can get rid of the picture (like I do) by going into share, then ‘edit your widget’ –uncheck the box about using html, I think it is–then you can just have the wave thingy.) The light beams sound lovely and…I don’t know, appropriate? And the life that is drawn to them, a good thing to see, I would think.

      • ManicDdaily Says:

        They are on tonight and I took a bunch of pictures, and amazingly the birds were just beginning to be there – unfortunately, I can’t get them on film. The first time I saw them, it seemed there were more (birds), but I think it was a warmer night, more moths, and also, it was about 1 AM or thereabouts, so there were perhaps fewer city lights. I’m going to post some of these pics tomorrow though – the pics aren’t so great, but the beams are truly amazing. k .

  2. This is so moving because you were actually so close to have to run and get your child asking God at the same time if they would be okay. Seeing people leap to their deaths, how dreadful. It was bad enough to see it all on TV let alone to be there.
    Your poem is deeply touching, as are the pictures, and, seeing the comment you left about the beams of light has, at least, some hope in there.
    Lovely poem, dreadful reason for it.

  3. Tino Says:

    I am what you could say, a million miles away, but today, due to reading this, I am there, inside that nightmare that you woke to that day.

  4. Myrna Says:

    Thank you for this poem that made me remember so vividly that day. And it made me think and pray for all those directly involved. The photos are great. Thanks again.

  5. brian miller Says:

    gosh k…gonna be a long night if they all give me tears like this….to fear for your child in that moment and not know…ugh….to watch them fall….ugh…i was away from my fam for a week after trying to get home….hard…great rememberence…hard….

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Yes, pretty awful. My oldest daughter had just begun (a day or so before) Stuyvesant High School, which was about three blocks away – not very far given size of buildings. A miracle that they fell the way they did, melting down and collapsing rather than toppling; really quite extraordinary. I always feel very grateful for myself and NYC that the buildings were as strong as they were. k.

  6. So many tears, and you capture the sense of tears and the frantic need to know whether your loved one is safe—great write—

  7. Karin, this day is one during which no TV plays, nor radio. I spend it in meditation on war. On who started it, for clearly there is blame all around… and the movie we watched last night, the one that came up in our Netflix queue, was ‘Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.’ Ironic.

    I lived in Manhattan for years. I cannot imagine a worse time than wondering if your child survived a catastrophe. As a mom, I feel for you. As an American, I continue to pray for an end to war.

    Peace, Amy

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Absolutely. Get them home.

      I read that book which I enjoyed, but not nearly as much as his earlier book = Everything is Illuminated. This one seemed a bit contrived, though he’s a wonderful writer.

  8. kaykuala Says:

    A touching remembrance and a fitting tribute to all the innocents K! Once a provocation was unleashed and a retaliation followed there was no ending to the madness.Nice write!

  9. The poem, and your reading of it – superb. I agree with Joy, the repeating form of the poem is just right for the theme, although, given the nature of your experience, it is quite understandable you’d like to put the memory away in a drawer somewhere.

  10. kelly Says:

    the form you used here reinforces the power of your message. it is a day that those that lived afar shall never forget, and those that lived near will remember forever. xo

  11. ayala Says:

    wow, this is moving and great.

  12. PJF Sayers Says:

    Karin, A moving poem about a horrible event, I and many others will never forget. I am a native New Yorker from Gramercy Park. I lived with the towers as part of my landscape. At the time of the attack I was living in Florida, imagine the horror I felt when seeing this on the tv. I felt as if someone were strangling me. Life is short and we never know, do we?


  13. ds Says:

    I remember being glued to CNN, watching those towers collapse, and the announcer “There are no words.” There weren’t; in fact, there aren’t, but you found some and they are perfect, the sense of fear and frustration and anguish and the unnameables.
    We could see the smoke for days…
    Thank you for this.

  14. That form is perfect, and extremely touching…. Thank you for keeping it in our hearts, Miss Manic. Someday in the future, generations from now, it will be a distant memory, a page in a child’s textbook, just another date to remember. But for me it will remain the single most life changing event during my stay on this earth. i won’t harp on it day after day, but today? Yeah….

  15. Jody Lee Collins Says:

    Karin–my daughter Leah and I were across the bridge in Brooklyn at my nephew’s on September 11th (I wrote about it, too.)
    Now that we’ve ‘met’, I thought about you this morning and I wondered how close you were. Too close. I can not imagine….
    I have my own pieces of paper and envelope that floated through the sky and landed at our feet a mile and a half away.
    no, we will never forget.

  16. What a powerful and perfect villanelle. You capture the horror relived in so many day and nightmares. Your account brings a kind of closure within its loop and at the same time a reminder to remember; to not take security for granted, to cherish the present and not forget what is good and valuable. A great write.

  17. I love your poem, as poignant today as when it was written, perhaps even more so. We must always remember, and be ever vigilant, so that something of this magnitude will never happen again. I appreciate and thank you for the pictures you shared too.

  18. I was on the road in Toronto when 9/11 happened, pulled in to work, had a meeting for lunch that I still went to. But the person I was meeting was flying in, and all airports were closed… so I sat there and had lunch alone, the emptiness speaking volumes. Your experience, so much closer, is devastating. Memory can be such a powerful thing… especially when captured in a verse such as you’ve wrought here. Thank you.

  19. A villanelle – the perfect vehicle for such a poem

  20. Poet Laundry Says:

    A perfect rendering. I really enjoyed this piece. Thank you for sharing.

  21. Pat Hatt Says:

    Wow that must have been horrible in every way, fearing for your child and all the things you had to see.

  22. Grace Says:

    Moving and lovely K ~ No words are enough to describe that day but in this beautiful form, you have reminded us to be thankful ~

  23. “The burning buildings woke me from a sleep
    of what I thought important, nothing now.”
    How we think things are so important until tragedy strikes. Touching lovely piece.

  24. Laurie Kolp Says:

    Powerful, so very powerful. Your tone reflects the mood, the feelings of fear and sadness. I can’t imagine living there when it happened.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Well, you know, the really hard thing were the days and months afterwards. I don’t mean to complain because we were so lucky and it was a very special time in many positive ways as well as bad. k.

  25. Steve King Says:

    A truly fine composition, clear, moving, immediate. Your voice adds so much to this, too. One of this week’s best.

  26. Fantastic poem. You so captured it, and the repeating lines of the villanelle really bring it home.

  27. Powerful, k! It was bad from where I was; I can’t imagine being there.

  28. Blue Flute Says:

    Touching poem to a moment that still seems with us and we’re reminded of it when we see Freedom Tower. The repetition of the form works well here.

    When I see the new tower
    I fear a new attack
    But we must act within our power
    To hope when others lack.

  29. Susan Says:

    the burning buildings
    the burning buildings

    The tone and pace of a war zone and the breathless rescue the breathless prayer that keeps one there O

    I will never forget the day, never forget this poem.

  30. ladynyo Says:

    A ‘frantic’ reading is exactly what is needed…how else can the terror of this situation, event be portrayed?

    In your reading, it says again, and again, that poetry is best heard, not read, and in the reading, it’s usually a poor second to the sounding of such passion.

    this poem goes straight to the heart…and is timeless.

    Thank you, Karin, for this…and the rememberance.

    From a mother who has a son…her only child on a destroyer somewhere near Yemen.

    Lady Nyo

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Oh dear, I’m so sorry to hear that. I hope/pray he will be okay. I’m sure he will be, but it makes one so very angry at those who needlessly inflame a bad situation. I’m not saying that they don’t have a right to -and of course, the response on the other side is horrible, ridiculous, crazed – but it feels so senseless and heedless.

      Take care of yourself through it all. k.

  31. janehewey Says:

    this is remarkably rendered, Karin. Your words strike chords in my heart- grief and hope at once. I admire your form and the way you unfold it lovingly. I remember the day. I remember the way people-all the way across the country in Seattle- held each other gently and carefully while details came to the surface. Thank you for your eloquent words.

  32. yoga-adan Says:

    the refrains so powerful and true

    and even in your commentary, this,

    “because the day provides such important cautionary tales”

    thank you so much for sharing this k.

  33. Emily Says:

    Oh! A villanelle! This is one of my favorite forms, and it works SO well with the lines you’ve chosen to repeat. The waking from sleep bears repeating with its layered meanings. And yet the form does not distract, but reinforces the dark, almost panicked subject. Love it. Beautifully done.

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