Elegy: To an unknown human falling

Published: 9/14/2021 3:48:04 PM

I am offering a short memory and a poem for the 9/11 memorial section. I wrote the poem the day after, Sept. 12, 2001, when I saw a picture on the front page of the New York Times showing an upside down person who had jumped from one of the towers. I couldn’t stop staring at the picture.

The principal at Northampton High School ordered all TVs shut down until further notice. However, a number of teachers with TVs in itheir rooms kept them going, along with the new footage and commentaries. Northampton High School had a fairly feisty, independent-thinking staff so some teachers continued to show and discuss the footage over and over again of the incident.

I see you leap from the flaming tower.

You jack-knife, freeze in mid-air by camera,

Tucked, seemingly so disciplined, and polished.

As you plunge, what soars your heart and brain?

Do you remember your mother making breakfast,

Or your child crying out in the night?

Do you re-do triumphs — first breaths held underwater

Or, simply, calm Sunday afternoon strolls?

Do sudden fleets of seagulls cushion you,

Winging you to a warm, safe haven?

Or do you behold Buddha, Allah, Jesus

Whose wide embrace spirits you to safety

Before looming concrete arrives, and air ends?

I wish tensed thousands, gathering, linked arms

To form impromptu human trampoline

To bounce you past death. And I wish

Angel firefighters aimed cloud-hoses

Whose waterfalls could drown conflagrations.

I wish myself and a million others’

Could lift the rubble, wipe away the soot,

Cradle your crushed body, and, bending, breathe

Over your lips, and bring you back to life.

Ernie Brill



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