September 11 Digital Archive






"Tower Two"
(110 lines woven from the contributions of invited poets) In the days and weeks following September 11th, New Yorkers were numbed by the gloomy silence that fell upon Lower Manhattan. The streets of Lower Manhattan lay eerily quiet and deserted, as if the avalanche of ashes from the Towers were a black and paralyzing snowfall.

Yet, beginning on the very day of the tragedy, when the distraught and bereaved began scrawling messages in the ash, and a student from NYU laid out a sheet of butcher block paper in Union Square, New Yorkers broke the silence with stories, poems, rituals and commemorative art. At the heart of the response were words -- words at first written in the dust near Ground Zero, on Missing Posters, makeshift memorials, scraps of paper posted on telephone booths, on index cards in Times Square, attached to ribbons on Canal Street, in chalk on the sidewalk, on firehouse walls.

The idea to build the towers back up in the way that only poets canin wordscame a few weeks later. Each poem tower would be 110 lines, one for each story of the Trade Towers. As word got out about the Twin Towers of Words, poets from all over the world submitted lines to our web site, For the second tower, we invited 110 established poets to contribute a line. Adrienne Rich, Robert Creeley, and Galway Kinnel were among the contributors. The two word towersalong with poetry from the shrineswere mounted as part of our traveling exhibit, Missing: Streetscape of a City in Mourning, at the New York Historical Society through July 7th. Below is a graphic image of the "word towers" that hang in the Missing exhibit-long, black, billowing cotton banners that were placed near a fountain toward the end of the exhibit. The towers are over 25-ft tall and these are only 15 inches high, but they should give you a sense of how they look in the show.

To see the full text of the poems see 911 Digital Archive Story # 9311 for Tower One and 911 Digital Archive Story # 9312 for Tower Two. Tower One includes poet Bob Holman's introductory comments; both include citations for each of the lines.

-- Steve Zeitlin, City Lore <>



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“2015.jpeg,” September 11 Digital Archive, accessed June 13, 2024,