September 11 Digital Archive: XML Document

Story:this poem was written after interviewing a lower manhattan resident about her 9/11 experience.

Diane's Song

When the plane passed right over our heads I thought it was
in trouble and trying to land in the water.
It hit the first building. Then Kathryn said,
"We're under attack." I thought, "Where is my daughter?"

I thought that an awful mistake had been made.
In the street all the people were running uptown
Except for one man who, holding his head,
Shouted, "No!" while running not up, but down.

And people were jumping from windows, a sight
I forgot for a year - Did my eyes deceive me?
The second plane hit. Then Kathryn turned
and said, "All right, now do you believe me?"

In the street a Jamaican woman stopped
as her legs buckled under her. That mother
clasped her hands together and cried,
"My son in one building; my daughter in the other."

A woman stayed with her as Kathryn and I
ran home and told our neighbors to leave.
We gathered our work, our clothes but that's
not all for it seemed everyone had cats.

We met downstairs, the neighbors with all
of their carrying cases when there before us
Stood forty-two seniors with no place to go.
"We can't leave," I said. Kathryn said, "I know."

So we put back our stuff and we stayed as the cloud
engulfed our homes and insidiously
set up house in our lungs; as hour passed hour
we lost water, phones, then the rest of our power.

Someone said that they'd seen my missing kid
She'd gone to a friend's house a block from the Center.
Thank God that I didn't know then where she was.
To this day I can't get straight just what she did.

For the next several days we drank powdered milk
courtesy of a curate who came in a truck
Things seemed to be going O.K. until
someone said, "I just took my last heart pill."

We found medication; we manned the drugstore
A mysterious stranger brought by sixty meals
Over time we got back some power, the phones
and the water; the toxics came too, more and more.

The government told us the air was O.K.
so we didn't think twice; we started to clean
while a mile up Broadway some scientists found
the most toxic small particles they'd ever seen.

Now the neighbors have come down with asthma and rashes
With Trade Center cough and severe sinusitis
I've had five infections; the cat has had three
and Kathryn and her cat have chronic bronchitis.

The world has moved on. Most people believe
In the war against terror, the U.S. is winning
But we people downtown wonder if for us
September 11th was just the beginning.

Jenna Orkin



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