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To New York City

I never knew you,
New York City,
not before that day.

That day when terror
set its sights on you.

City cursed and spited,
city under attack.
City whose heroes
emerged from the haze,
covered in soot,
through clouds of gray,
to show the world
what America is.

They say the farther away one was
the less one felt the attack.
This cannot be true -
I felt gut-punched and sick.

I sat in front of the television.
Unable to look
-unable to turn away.

A man named Rudy Giuliani
whom I'd scarcely heard of before
spoke for his city -
He spoke of pain, of sadness,
of rebuilding.

I clung to Rudy's words.
He made me think we really could
get through this.
He was a voice of hope
in a city of despair...

Words from "America the Beautiful"
sprang unbidden to my mind,
and seared my heart:
"Thine alabaster cities gleam
undimmed by human tears."

...That isn't true anymore.

Many months later,
I travel to see you.

I stand wordlessly at ground zero.
How can I snap a photo?
It feels like sacred ground.

I don't even know
what it once looked like.
It speaks of emptiness now.

The memorials at St. Paul's,
at Grand Central Terminal
pull tears from my eyes once more.

NYPD, FDNY, we see them everywhere;
The embattled survivors
and the rookies and probies
who will carry on.

At Rescue 1, we meet a firefighter.
He is friendly; he is strong.
He accepts our thanks humbly;
He was just "doing his job".

He invites us in for a tour,
but alarms clang,
and he is off on another run.

Just like that day,
almost a year ago now,
when 11 firefighters from Rescue 1
left on their rig
and never returned.

I never knew New York City
before that day.
I found the people as busy and hurried
as I had always imagined.

But there is something else there
something not quite definable.
Perhaps more love of life,
now that life is more fragile,
more precious.

I wasn't with you long,
but I feel privileged
to have walked among you.
I love you, New York.

--spookycc, August, 2002

Colleen Carteaux