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.
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.