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Falling from the Sky

by Lionel E. Deimel


My mind rejected the truth it knew when the first tower fell.

Expecting the second collapse, it rejected that reality also.

How many lives had I just seen truncated?

What was it like?

How had they died?


What became of those who telephoned at once to say they were all right but who were never heard from again?

What happened to those on lower floors who waited too long to become alarmed?

Did they know what was happening?

What did they hear?

What did they smell?


Was immolation by jet fuel worse than the fire felt by Joan of Arc?

Those who jumped must certainly have thought so.

The air was fresh,

And one could fly,

At least for a moment.


The second plane penetrated the wall like a heavy object dropped onto a cake.Burning World Trade Center towers

Was anyone staring out the window as it became larger and larger?

Could thet see into the cockpit?

Was the pilot smiling?

Was he serene?


The lucky ones died instantly of trauma,

Hearing only a loud crash before being overtaken by a dark, eternal silence.

Were they spared fear?

Did they gasp?

Did they pray?


Stairwells were filled with smoke and water and people,

Their downward journey slowed by the firefighters and hoses on their way up.

How many almost made it out?

How many fell?

How many gave up?


As steel buckled and failed under assault from the terrible fire,

Was it worse to be above, as the floor slipped away, or below?

Did people understand the meaning of that monstrous roar?

Did time stop?

Did they go mad?


As the end came, space was no longer filled with air but became a maelstrom of angry particles

Fired from millions of machine guns pointed in every direction.

Could any bodies even remain whole?

Was there pain?

Was God there?


We all continue to try to achieve understanding of the events of September 11, 2001. What we saw on television looked like an expensive Hollywood production, of which we could be sure that no animals had been harmed. But we knew this was real, and that real people were dying horrible deaths before our eyes. In this poem, I tried to understand what that meant. Of course, we can never know. (Written September 27, 2001.)

I made several minor revisions to the poem on September 11, 2017. I dropped an unnecessary comma, substituted a “they” for a “he,” and replaced a “they” with a “people.” Nothing more need be said.

Be sure to read also the poems “11 September 2001,” “Airplanes II,” and “9/11 Memorial,” as well as the essay “What's in a Name?”.

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