"...falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling,
like the descent of their last end,
upon the living and the dead. "
Today, I was asked by my principal to review a poem that a young man at our school had composed as a remembrance of 9/11 to be read over our public address system here at school on Friday morning. I had never actually met this student until this afternoon. He explained that he was in the first grade in September of 2001, and just felt he had to write a poem in honor of the day. He also told me that the story of Flight 93 had really left a deep impression on him when he saw it at age 13. He is now a junior. We talked about the bravery of so many people who were forced to make decisions on that day. I told him that I personally remember feeling that New York City was really very close when I knew in reality that it would take me over 18 hours to drive there. Each morning I came to school in those days after, I wanted to just go there--not really knowing what I could possibly do to help anyone--but the sense of wanting to let so many there know that I was trying in my own way to help with the leaden weight they must bear was quite overwhelming. I confirmed that even now, he just knew he must do this probably for the same reasons. It is because we know we are all "falling through the universe" like so many snowflakes in James Joyce's lines from his story "The Dead." And because I knew he would appreciate another poet, I shared with the young man Annie Farnsworth's poignant tribute to a man who appeared on the front page of major newspapers* and who is buried in our collective consciousness as we mourn and revere that day in September.
For the Falling Man
I see you again and again
tumbling out of the sky,
in your slate-grey suit and pressed white shirt.
At first I thought you were debris
from the explosion, maybe gray plaster wall
or fuselage but then I realized
that people were leaping.
I know who you are, I know
there's more to you than just this image
on the news, this ragdoll plummeting—
I know you were someone's lover, husband,
daddy. Last night you read stories
to your children, tucked them in, then curled into sleep
next to your wife. Perhaps there was small
sleepy talk of the future. Then,
before your morning coffee had cooled
you'd come to this; a choice between fire
How feeble these words, billowing
in this aftermath, how ineffectual
this utterance of sorrow. We can see plainly
it's hopeless, even as the words trail from our mouths
—but we can't help ourselves—how I wish
we could trade them for something
that could really have caught you.