September 11: Two Giraffes, Two Towers, Two Girls

September eleventh,

in it I see:

Two ones,

Two Giraffes,

Two Towers,

Two Girls.


Twelve years have passed,

closed-eyed, they melt away,

thirteen and full of dreams

waking up for school,

riding the bus,

first class breezed by,


second period Spanish,

stopped in midair,

like birds, like planes,


causing chaos,

they locked the doors and windows,

the principal’s voice called

for attention over the intercom;

the girl

she sat silently,


ears open, body still,

feet grounded, mouth closed,

being held by a hard plastic chair,

being confined by a writing desk

and the voice

told a story of

the worst kind.


The story left the whole

class in nervous chatter,

in panicked tears,

the teacher calling furiously

on her cell phone,

the girl staring outside

the locked window,

her pen making marks

on the start to that day’s



The abandoned notes,

not so important enough

to be learned,

when tragedy loomed,

when the room was

filled with the

aftermath of

such a wretched



Picked up by midafternoon,

in the minivan,

her aunt’s voice fear-stricken,

with words like ‘bombs,’

‘war,’ ‘uncle,’





The moment

she arrived home,

to brother,



not to father,

to brother/sister/mother

on couches watching

the story retold,

on television,

in clips of footage,

and the girl remembered

the quote about

‘film confirming our existence,’

and she sat,

toes curled, eyes round,

mouth curved, body hunched,

hoping he had his helmet on,

after hearing of the chaplain

who was the first to die,

cause of death:








spewed from her eyes.



without father.

Without father.



twelve years passed,

she looks in the mirror,

her imagination recreates the story:

her eyes filled with dark smoke,

mouth coughing out ashes,

hair, like shredded paper

dancing in the air,

body with bones of

mangled steel,

ears that scream,

blood that tells the story,

of being thirteen

and wondering if

your fathers alive.


It’s about being

thirteen and finding out

he is alive.


It’s about being thirteen

and asking why he lives

and other fathers’ die.


It’s a story, like most,

whose happy ending

is relative.


It’s also a story of how

once the girl

wrote a poem

in Spanish class,

about the Twin Towers,

how they were giraffes,

how they stood tall,

how the peaceful giants

could steal your glance

from all points of the City,

turning it into a stare,

how their majesty

demanded that you think

about the feebleness

of your life for a moment;

making you think

that you are so small,

and weak,

and broken

and thirteen.


But when the small/weak/broken

girl looked in the mirror then,

she saw the day and its story,

about being thirteen and how the

Towers fell,

and how she read once that,

“The only one who can be saved,

is the one who feels the destruction

of being in the pit, whilst praying to

be rescued,”

and she thought that perhaps

the devil,

being creative at pit-making,

tore those Towers to kneel at their


that perhaps God indeed

had heard their prayers,

or ours,

and they were saved,

rescued from the pit and

brought to the Most High.


But now twenty-five

after recounting the story,

like she has most days,

she looks out of the open window,


it is a story that taught her,

to be glad for big things,

for tall things;

for even when they crumble,

they can be praised for even

standing at all;

for even when they die,

they can be thanked for even

living at all.


Twelve years have passed,


they melt away,

she’s twenty-five and full of dreams

waking up for school,

writing stories,

she tells them


sometimes they’re the worst kind,

but always she writes for the best endings.


She pens them so we don’t forget

how there was once

many men and many women

before this day,

who had no helmet to protect them

from the weight of disaster,

and even many more

who had no helmet to protect them

from the nightmares,


whose only protection is knowing

that it happened,

and that we remember.



I remember,

and I thank you

for your bravery in my life’s tale.


To all who perished,

and all who live with the memories:


In my journal

two tall giraffes stand watch over you

and your stories;


nor I,

will ever forget.


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7 thoughts on “September 11: Two Giraffes, Two Towers, Two Girls

  1. Erika,

    This broke me but in a good way, the way our hearts need to be broken. Change thirteen to eleven and Spanish class to English class and it is my story. I always thank God our dads were saved. Love you!

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