Once again this morning, as on every September 11, I’m remembering the day twelve 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. For me, it still evokes memories of more innocent, trusting times. I published it here last year, but I’d like to share it again.
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.