|Today, this poem seems to need no
explanation. Perhaps, one day, it will. Like most Americans (and, one hopes,
most people), I was horrified on September 11, 2001, when terrorists hijacked
four domestic airliners and flew three of them into the Pentagon and World Trade Center.
I felt an immediate need to write about those events, but it took some time to
get myself into an adequate frame of mind to so. This poem was apparently
inspired by President Bush’s address to Congress on September 20, in that I
awoke the next day with the first couplet in my head. The sentiments are largely
those of my essay of September 16. I
finished the poem on September 23, 2001.
The fourth line originally ended with “to fight a great wrong,” which
was intended to add to the alliteration introduced by “forces,”
“fearsome,” “fortitude,” and “face.” For several reasons, however, “to
right a great wrong” seems more natural and does not greatly lessen the
effect of the alliteration.
When I wrote the poem, I very much believed
that our military response was defending civilization, and not simply
the United States. Alas, the “War on Terror” (or “Terrorism,” or
whatever) has developed into an adventurism that has been the subject
more of the condemnation of the world’s civilized nations than their
The final couplet in the original poem was
We act out of motives complex
But mostly, we do what we do
I was never quite comfortable with the first
line of this stanza, which was peculiar, at best. I changed that line
9/10/2011 to what you see above. This changed the meaning a bit, but it
reads better and is surely true to the spirit of the original.
Be sure also to read my other poems
inspired by the atrocities of September 11, “Falling from the Sky”
and “Airplanes II,” as well as the essay
“What's in a Name?”.
— LED, 9/12/2011