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9/11 Memorial

by Lionel E. Deimel


The staff scrambled to assemble a service,

not knowing who was affected,

not knowing, really, what had happened.

I watched the congregation from my usual place in the choir,

saw a somber crowd performing the familiar ritual,

trying to understand the utterly unfamiliar.

I watched a priest prepare the elements,

flanked by the tall altar candles,

just as I had watched a priest read the Gospel from the center of the nave—

watched through a flame atop a taper reaching skyward,

giving off waves of heat through which the words shimmered.


On September 11, 2001, the day that airliners were flown into the World Trade Center towers, my church, which had planned to begin a new education program that evening, cancelled all scheduled events and substituted a memorial Eucharist. Because I sang in the choir, I sat behind the altar that night, looking out toward the congregation. I could not help noticing how the altar candles, burning benignly, resembled the burning towers that I had seen repeatedly on television that day. I had long wanted to write of that observation, but I did not get around to it until 6/30/2003. On 7/10/2003, after receiving detailed criticism from my writers’ group, I revised the poem, deleting the first two lines, along with three other words. The shorter poem is indeed an improvement.

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