A seventh grade teacher in the Midwest

A seventh grade teacher in the Midwest

Tells her classes to write poems

About their thoughts and their feelings

About the tragedy that struck this nation

On September 11, 2001

They write beautiful words

About something to happened far away

To people they didn't know

They play games of connection

"My mother's friend's brother

Died in those towers."

"Well my cousin's ex-boyfriend did too."

The other kids are jealous

Wishing they had those distant relatives

Connecting them to an event of such national importance

But still they write beautiful poems

About something that didn't happen to them.

It happened to me.

It happened to my city and my family

My sorrows were drowned in a sea of red, white and blue

So I never wrote a single poem about it.

Until now

I won't tell you about the day it happened

Though of course I can recall every second of the day.

But you know it yourself

You watched it on TV with everybody else

Over and over again, those towers fell

As America sat transfixed before their TV screens

How the ratings must have soared.

Maybe I'll tell you about the time I was there

How he proudly listed off trivia about the tallest buildings in the world

As we stared down at our city from an unimaginable height.

I felt so small. But he was strong and

With him I was always safe

Even at the top of the world.

Maybe I'll tell you how it feels to have something so personal

Dragged out into a public spectacle.

And brought back once a year because we must always remember

As if those of us who lost could ever forget.

As if we need those reminders

But of course, those yearly reminders and those moments of silence

They aren't for us.

They aren't even for the people who died.

They're for the rest of the world to watch

For Americans without a sense of purpose to see

That's why we gotta fight these wars

That's why we gotta kill them Arabs

Look what they did to us.

And Americans all over feel a sense of righteous indignation

They mourn the lives lost

They wave their flags

They write their poems

They fight their wars

And they remember.

I remember my uncle in a different way.

I don't remember him as a symbol of democracy

I remember him as a man who brought me chocolate bars

And took me to baseball games.

You never knew that man.

Don't mourn for him.

Don't fight wars for him.

Stop thinking of what they did to us

As if we never did anything to them

As if we never did anything to anybody

How about on 9/11 next year

We show footage of the Chilean Coup

September 11, 1973

And we have a moment of silence

For the desaparecidos

For the thousands killed, imprisoned, or tortured

Because of what we did to them.

The middle schoolers don't think of all this when they write their poems

They just think of buildings falling

And flags waving

And what a sad, sad day it was for everybody.

It was a sad day.