NYC Stories

David Breitkopf

I was on my way to work via the A train. I reached Broadway/Nassau Fulton St. at 9 a.m. I was going to take the 4,5 to Bowling Green, but just about then the second plane hit. All hell broke loose. I decided not to return on the A, but to go out to see what really was going on. I was ushered out of the subway by a national guard and I knew it was serious. The following poem, details many of the things I saw that day.


The Twin Towers have collapsed in smoke and symbol
an icon of death that floats in limbo.
We witnessed history unspool its reel
And reach the boiling point of cement and steel.
And what I heard and what I saw
That day was every human high and flaw.
Like a mailbox accepting a letter,
The plane slipped in, addressed to forever.
Oh show it again TV, show it once more
How an airplane docks on the 91st floor.
Show us how a building crumbles to dust
Rewind the tape for our immeasurable lust.
But at first the towers babbled smoke from their torn
Mouths, blackening the sky on this September morn.
And those safe on the ground stood shielding their eyes
Watching the story unfold in the sky.
People snapped photos like on holiday.
They were out of work early, and still getting paid.
A man stepped out his window and fell to the street.
Like some surreal painting by Magritte.
His body twists an awkward arabesque
Then settles upright as though at his desk.
A gasp rises from our throats -
As though our voices might help him to float.
Brackish sirens sliced the air
Trailing a briny smell of fear.
I saw the first firefighters rush to the scene
To save countless lives, except their own it would seem.
The dazed multitudes shuffled north
Leaving their brethren to burn like moths.
I saw people crying, I saw people run,
I saw a woman getting her nails done.
And a group of four women prayed to their God
Speaking in tongues, no one thought it was odd.
And a man laughed, I saw a man laugh -
A hollow sound; I see him still like a photograph.
I heard another man condemn “all Muslims” to burn,
Like some Grand Inquisitor - all law adjourned.
And just a bit further
I saw a man piously praying to Allah.
Now we till the rubble for the dead
Planted in their brutal bed.
And dream of buildings tall and stout
That can stand the fury of God’s devout.
We all grope for words to describe this hell
But none of them seem to ring the right bell.
Still we stutter towards meaning, an inarticulate refrain,
Then leave off in silence what can’t be explained.

David Breitkopf

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