9/11 Tributes and Testimonials
By Daniel Oresanya
September 11, 2023
In shadows cast by towers tall,
A day engraved, forever recall,
When skies turned dark, and spirits wept,
The world united, hearts were kept.
From dust and debris, heroes emerged,
Their courage, a flame that never purged,
In the face of chaos, they stood strong,
Resilient souls, where hope belonged.
The fallen souls, eternally remembered,
Their spirits lingered, never surrendered,
Their voices whisper in the gentle breeze,
A testament to strength, the world to seize.
Amidst the sorrow, unity took flight,
A beacon of hope, shining bright,
Hands joined together, across the land,
Love's prevailing force, forever in demand.
Through tears and pain, a nation's grace,
Bound by grief, but faith embraced,
From shattered fragments, dreams rebuild,
As hearts heal wounds, love instilled.
Let not the darkness overshadow light,
For hope and kindness will forever ignite,
In unity, we rise, we heal, we grow,
Through adversity, the seeds of compassion sow.
So let us honor, the lives we've lost,
With each sunrise, embracing the cost,
In remembrance, we forge a better day,
Where love and peace will forever stay.
In the hearts of families left behind,
A pain, a void, impossible to bind,
Their loved ones taken on that fateful morn,
Innocent lives forever torn.
Children who grew up without a father's care,
Mothers who faced a lifetime of despair,
Siblings missing their brothers and sisters dear,
The weight of their absence, a constant, heavy sear.
Yet, in their grief, they found strength anew,
A bond that in tragedy only grew,
Supporting one another, hand in hand,
In unity, they helped each other stand.
Through tears and sleepless nights, they cope,
With memories cherished, and dreams of hope,
Each day, they carry their loved ones' light,
Their spirits guiding them through the darkest night.
In honoring those they hold so dear,
They keep their memory forever near,
Through acts of kindness and deeds of grace,
They create a legacy in that sacred space.
So let us remember not just the towers tall,
But the families who endured the fall,
May their courage and resilience inspire,
As we pay tribute to those we deeply admire.
One Last Time
By Jada Walker
September 11, 2023
What do I do now? I am in a constant battle with myself trying to be strong and move on but my mind just goes back to you.
How I’m expected to just go on about my day as if you hadn’t just gone,
How I’m expected to move at the pace as everyone else, but I can’t. Time is ticking and I’m unable to catch up,
How that one day changed my life forever and those around me but I am expected to cope and be strong, but being strong to me is just an act cause no way can I ever forget you,
no way can I go on and act as if I don’t want to hug you one last time, share a laugh one last time, take a picture with you one last time.
Who knew that it would be the last time families will say ‘see you later, That it would be the day their loved ones took their last breath.
That they would go to work for the last time, grab coffee for the last time, have a meeting for the last time, share a hug for the last time… speak and share their thoughts, feelings, and jokes for the last time.
The breath that once filled those lungs are no longer there, the smiles that were once displayed to show emotions of happiness are no longer there, just washed away into the minds of their loved ones called a memory.
Cause with just that single day, that one single tragic day… everything changed, families no longer with those who they cherish which still leaves scars on their hearts years later.
Many needing to gasp for air cause they need a minute to breathe and grasp what just took place.
What changed their life so much in an instant.
What they would do to just hug their daughter, son, mother, father, lover, friend…. Just one last time.
Resilient Hearts: A Reflection of the Legacy of 9/11
By Parsva Shah
September 11, 2023
Eight forty six AM, nothing was ever the same,
People looked up and saw smoke outside their window pane, A tower was taken from us, and no one could understand, Through the smoke and confusion, together we stand,
Nine o’ three AM, people looked up in fear as the second tower was hit, It became very clear, someone twisted was behind this,
Firefighters and policemen rushed to the scene and towards the buildings they ran, With sirens blaring in our ears and dust in our lungs, together we stand,
Two thousand nine hundred and seventy seven dead, Tears stream through the streets as the names are said,
As broken as we are, we walked and we held each other’s hands, On the Brooklyn Bridge home, together we stand,
Our brothers and sisters have perished, the pain is still deep, Every night I can hear Lady Liberty weep,
We must always remember the sacrifices and we must advance, With folded American flags in our hands, together we stand,
Our differences aside, as Americans we lead,
Our stars were our color, our stripes were our creed, From the folks in the city to those on the ranch, One nation divisible, together we stand,
On 9/11, I was still in my mother’s womb, One generation later, I still feel the gloom,
Every year we must take a moment, look around, and glance, And vow a pledge of allegiance to justice, together we stand,
The land of the free and the home of the brave,
We must work together to protect each other’s freedoms every day, The seeds of tomorrow, together today we plant,
With liberty and justice for all, together we must stand.
The New York City Abyss
Bt Kenneth Paul Padilla II
St. John’s Preparatory School (Class Of 2025)
September 11, 2023
When the world was at ease and jobs were at flow, The throngs of confusion were limited and low.
The hustling city with business and growth,
Some jobless and some who swore to take an oath. The daily morning train, some late and some worn, Where off they went, hopefully some do not scorn. The typical bliss of a September top of the morrow, All to be saturated by the long lost sorrow.
Walking out of the city subway, there was a sense of hope, When the people I see, some work and some cope.
It was in that day in which I felt long and proud, The boss I was met with was inconsiderate and loud.
In contemplation was I encountered with my worth of the world, When suddenly I see people long lost and hurled.
The air grew strong with a suffocating frugality,
It was indeed inferred that there was a social abnormality.
In my head were the screams of my beautiful wife, When the wing of a plane came close to my life.
I grew with fear and screams of the lost world, I struggled with hope and indeed I curled.
It seemed like the last chance to gather appreciation,
When suddenly my arm was struck needing an amputation. What a great time had I on this wonderful planet,
Smelling new things and satisfying my palette.
When abruptly the floor above us came crashing down How painful it was and how painful the sound.
When in the end I had all but hope,
Either to be eaten by the fire or plunge the tallest slope.
Before and After
By Kim Liao*
September 9, 2022
September has always been one of my favorite times of year. The summer heat dissipates, and back to school shopping promises an exciting academic year ahead. Nothing gets me jazzed like notebooks and pens, binders and highlighters. I’ve always been a nerd.
In September 2001, I was a high school senior on Long Island. I was 17, getting ready to apply for college, and I had just bought my first car with my whole life’s savings. It was red. All I wanted were some fuzzy dice for the rearview mirror. On my way to school, I’d stop at 7-11 for a buttered roll and hazelnut coffee with lots of cream, lots of sugar. My world was so small.
The morning of 9/11 was sunny and warm, with an autumnal snap to the air. I was in my AP Government class, which I found so boring, and was definitely zoning out when a classmate returned from the main office. “A plane hit the World Trade Center,” he said. We looked at him blankly. Class continued.
I wish I could remember more. I wish I could return to that morning before school, to the moments before we knew, and cherish them a little more. Appreciate the placid calm before it all turned upside down.
Before 9/11, I was a teenager, concerned only with playing soccer, getting good SAT scores, working at the local bookstore, and getting the heck out of my cloyingly small town.
After 9/11, I grew up, and entered the adult world. I was forced to face the scary facts of reality and feared for the future. All my delusions of safety and seclusion shattered in a single day.
9/11 sliced my life in two: child before, adult after.
Since then, 21 years have passed. If my memory of 9/11 were a child born on that day, they would be old enough to drink, to vote, to enroll in the military. My memory has changed, too—evolved, faded, deepened. This brings me to the question of memorials.
For as long as I’ve been a writing teacher, I’ve taught writing about memorials. My students address questions concerning the persistence of memory, and the threat and solace of forgetting. We consider who should be memorialized, and what memorials should be revised or reinvented. You might say I’m obsessed with the act of memorializing.
Memorials are architectural repositories for our memories, places that offer us spaces to grieve, to remember, to let our memories evolve with time as the stone or bronze statues weather, as oxidation blurs the sharp edges of letters, names etched in perpetuity.
Why do we need memorials? So we don’t forget? Or to remind us why we need to remember? What should we remember? How do we confront legacies that change and shift, and sometimes need to be rewritten? How can our memorials be alive and thoughtfully evolve with our society?
The first time I visited the 9/11 Memorial was four years ago, at night. The waterfalls cascaded into darkness, the pools creating a void that could hold all of these memories, these inexplicable losses.
The names carved into the bronze panels around the pools are cut out from the metal, so the name itself is an absence, a void. Golden light pours through where someone’s presence should have been, a soul fire extinguished too soon.
When I think of the 9/11 Memorial, I recall visiting that same patch of land 21 years ago, two months to the day after 9/11. It was called Ground Zero then. As I approached the site, I encountered a gigantic, deep hole that was still smoking. The wreckage was still on fire two months later. It was like a mouth with a gaping tooth missing.
I remember the acrid, bitter smell. These smells were harbingers of the deadly toxins that would sicken so many first responders who had come to save lives, extinguish fires, and clean up the site. We just didn’t know how those fires would take their toll for years and decades to come.
At 17, I wanted to fathom why this had happened, to learn about global politics. Over subsequent months and years, I would try to educate myself about why terrorists had wanted to attack America, and why our government had decided to invade Afghanistan.
The night I went to Ground Zero, I attended a nearby candlelight vigil with a friend, and we prayed for peace. We put our bodies to work expressing our protest to the impending invasion of Afghanistan. With an impassioned but insubstantial crowd, we walked from Battery Park up West Street along the Hudson River, singing and chanting, watching the stars come out over this resilient city.
I was naïve then; I believed that every small action had some kind of importance. I thought my words and actions mattered in the grand scheme of things. That sense of activism faded over time, as adult life wore me down, and I grew jaded, gave up hope, felt exhausted, and was tempted to surrender to apathy.
But twenty-one years later, I see the wisdom of 17-year-old Kim. And every September, I’m inspired by the strong convictions and energy of my John Jay freshman writing students. Thinking back on that autumn that turned me into an adult, I still remember our clear hope for a bright future in the face of utter darkness. Our hope was a candle flame, burning through the night.
*Kim Liao is a Lecturer in the Writing Program of the English Department at John Jay College. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Catapult, Lit Hub, The Rumpus, Salon, The Millions, and others. As a creative writer, former legal writer, and professional editor, her teaching interests include helping students write effectively in different genres across disciplines both inside and outside of the academy.
Hope for the Future
Innocent lives lost, widespread fear, and great anxiety griped our nation and city in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Heightened concerns about future terrorist attacks were prevalent.
At that time, we also shared grief and a spirit of unity. People supported professionals that tended to the effected, forensic specialists who looked for remains to bring closure to the families, and philanthropic services that assisted survivors, first responders, and family members of victims. People rallied around our military servicemembers seeking justice against those responsible for the attacks.
However, in the aftermath, we also witnessed distrust against communities and the enactment of restrictions on civil liberties. The public health and economic consequences of the attacks underscored disparities and generated discord.
Thankfully, there have been no terrorist attacks on the scale of 9/11 in more than two decades. Many of us continue to work for global peace and understanding. I am proud to contribute to this effort thanks to the foundation I received at John Jay.
Efforts to prevent and guard our country and city from future terrorist attacks shape our lives today. 9-11 transformed curriculum, scholarship and practices in counterterrorism, security and cybersecurity and resulted in advancements in forensics, fire science, emergency management and health, among other disciplines. Lessons from this catastrophe influence our experiences in societal institutions.
While today I look back and pay tribute to those who lost their lives on that day and 21 years later, including some of my colleagues, I also look ahead with hope. My hope for a better and more inclusive society remains strong. It has inspired my wife and me to establish a scholarship in global security studies to enable traditionally underrepresented John Jay students to make a difference in security management and homeland security.
Let this candle I light today, shine a bright light for our future. May we see the day when a great peace will embrace the world. May we realize the day when people of all races and creeds forge a common bond in true harmony. And may we experience every day the achievements of generations of John Jay students and alumni, safeguarding human rights and advancing justice.
*Cal Mathis serves as the Chief Security Officer at S&P Global. He earned a Master of Science in Protection Management in 2009 and a Bachelor of Arts in Defiant Behavior in 1987 from John Jay College. As a member of the Board of the John Jay College Foundation, Cal Mathis, with his wife Arlette, established a scholarship in security management and homeland security for John Jay undergraduate students.
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