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Twenty Years Ago 

Twenty years ago
on the morning of 9.11
I was watching TV like I always do
with some coffee and an occasional yawn
and an outstretched arm.

It was a beautiful morning that 9.11.
blue sky, crisp air,
until the news flashed a weird story
about a passenger plane hitting
the North Tower of the World Trade Center
without explanation
and exploding in the upper floors
at the top of the world of business and commerce.

A terrible mistake I thought,
a statistical aeronautical aberration
until a second plane smashed the
fragile facade of what was
becoming our day of infamy.
Then a third report of the Pentagon under attack.

But by then we were all under attack
with nowhere to hide
when a fourth plane heading to
the White House crashed
in Central Pennsylvania
with reports of heroic passengers
overwhelming the hijackers
just as fireman and emergency workers
rushed into danger in New York and Northern Virginia
without regard for their own lives
like the defenders of Ft McHenry
who would not lower our flag
and continue to raise our spirits
every time we sing our tributes to them
above the rolling white clouds of
dust, ash and destruction
burying 2996 precious souls in its
billowing, monstrous path in Lower Manhattan, Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Twenty years is not a long time
when it comes to 9.11,
which changed us and wounded us,
angered us and confused us

Twenty years is not a long time
If your father or mother or friend
Perished at the hands of deranged terrorists
Seeking to knock out America
In a one round fight
Before the bell rang or the ref stepped into the ring

Twenty years later
Lower New York City is rebuilt
and busy as usual
just across the river from the unharmed Statue of Liberty.
The Pentagon is a mighty fortress again
and green grass grows in Stonycreek Township, PA
over the tear drenched ground
where our impromptu American heroes made their final stand.
“Let’s roll,” they yelled
while we still were seeking cover.

Twenty years later
in our minds’ eye,
we still see the Towers falling
collapsing into themselves
and we are still overwhelmed
by the plague of darkness which swept over our land
without warning or restraint
without blood on our doors to protect us from the agents of death and hate.

Twenty years later,
we are still collapsing
into our inner selves as we watch the old videos on TV
and from our loss of invincibility,
the painful realization
that 20 years is not enough
to comprehend 9.11
and what it did to us as a nation
and as families and as individuals.

Monuments are not enough
although they are beautiful and dignified.
They are only markers in time and space.
reminders that we are still rebuilding
our nation and ourselves
with the hope
that we will yet bequeath to our children
a better world than the one that was stolen from us
twenty years ago.

Rabbi Lance J. Sussman, Ph.D.