Sunday, September 13, 2020


 I'm writing this on September 11, 19 years after the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City. When they happened, I was living in the San Diego area, and my daughter had called me to tell me about these and the other attacks, and said that the priest with whom she was working was preparing to say a Mass in time of war. When I turned on the radio, servicemen were being recalled to Miramar and all flights in the country were canceled. 

Because I had lived in New York City when my husband and I were first married, I was very familiar with the World Trade Center, and my husband and I had eaten in Windows on the World, the restaurant at the top of one of the towers for our fifth anniversary.  In addition, I had interviewed for a job on the 80th floor, so I knew how massive those buildings were.  The elevators rattled and creaked as they made their way up in a way that made one think the buildings were rather poorly constructed, as opposed to the smoothly functioning elevators in the elegantly slim Empire State Building, where I worked until we moved to California.  The idea that a plane could bring even one of those monoliths crashing down was much more somber to me than to someone who had never seen the scale of the towers nor experienced them from the inside.

On the anniversary of the catastrophe, I pray for everyone who died, for the wounded, the grieving, the first responders, and all whose lives were inexorably changed by those acts of violence. And I give thanks for those of us who were spared and can live out the mission we have been given.


When the first trauma ceased to stun, November

overtook October and September

but few flew willingly.  I remembered

before the buildings were complete

I went for an interview on the 80th floor,

the elevator’s lurching left me unnerved,

rattling and shaking in the ascent, then doors

flew open, spit me out, slammed shut

before I saw where I’d emerged, and left:

skeletal 79th, cement dust,

ominous silence in the dampened air, 

and a jangling fear that I was not alone.

The call buttons didn’t work,

terrors lurked.

Desperate, I looked for stairs

then recalled that fire 

regulations sometimes required

all doors be locked except 

the lobby exit. Could I retreat 

down 79 long sets of steps

in my interview heels without breaking my ankle or neck?

Panic propelled me breathless up one flight.

Rushed, disheveled, I pushed the door—open—

back to the order of cubicles, computers and phones.

They asked if I were well, wanted children,

questions my husband said they weren’t allowed to ask.

I didn’t fit, had babies, worked at homely tasks,

escaped the pyre

of all those stairs collapsing into fire,

one more way my children gave me life.

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