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They told us all 'to just to stay put, '
Breathing ashes and blackened soot,
'Put a towel against the door, '
'Wet it first, put it on the floor; '
'The Firemen were on the way, '
That's what 911 said that day;
But I've always had an ornery streak,
When told to obey and to be meek,
We were told to wait in that fiery din;
'Be patient, the firemen were coming in; '
But I rebelled; I could not sit still,
I would not cling to the windowsill,
I was tired of always following orders,
I had to think of my two daughters;
So for once I dared to rebel
To exit from that burning hell;
As in the fires of Serengeti,
In whirling smoke and wild confetti,
I held a towel to my face,
A savage in a human race;
Through the choking smoke and fire
Stumbling in the twisting gyre,
Blindly, pushing, through the smell
I made it to the South stairwell;
I joined a mob of screams and cries,
Of burnt white shirts and silken ties;
Of torn pants suits and sooted skirts,
The stairway lights flashing on alert;
Rebels all we descended
Heedless of whom we offended;
In the crowd a woman fell,
Who she was I could not tell,
Yet I stopped to help her up,
How odd she held a coffee cup;
Down and down we stumbled down,
A woman wore a wedding gown,
In the stink and smoke and fire,
Careless of our ruined attire,
We stumbled downward in our haste,
Our only thought to escape;
We met the firemen coming up,
Our downward flow slowed abrupt;
We let them pass, they let us pass,
Above we heard a roaring crash;
From above fell chunks of debris,
We ran downward one thought to flee;
But the firemen shoved us to run up,
Anger flared, some were cuffed;
We pushed downward amid the screams
We heard the wail of police sirens;
And suddenly I was in the lobby,
My knees were shaken, my steps were wobbly;
I was led away cut and bruised,
I realized I had lost my shoes;
I staggered barefoot up the street,
In a rain of paper sheets;
Whose files these were I didn't know,
But they all came down like scattered snow;
I was ushered on by waving cops,
'Head North! ' they shouted, I didn't stop
I saw a priest give a man extreme unction,
In the middle of a cross street junction;
I was alive, I had rebelled,
I walked Northward from that evil smell.

Submitted: Sunday, October 13, 2013
Edited: Friday, October 25, 2013

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Comments about this poem ((19) The White Ship by David McLansky )

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  • Susan Lacovara (2/19/2014 8:11:00 PM)

    Revisiting the events of that horrific day, painful, and yet it needs be resurrected, in heart and mind, that we never forget...I invite you to read a few selections of my poems on th subject of 9/11...After The Towers Fell, Reflections, and Take Cover. Your storytelling is honest, poignant, heartbreaking familiar for a New Yorker, such as myself, who still feels that extreme loss of innocence. Thank you for sharing. As always, I end with a wish of PEACE

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  • Sara G (12/3/2013 8:00:00 PM)

    Hi Mr. McLansky. I am doing a project for social studies and it is a recitation. I wanted to use your poem and was wondering if you were a witness of 9/11 perhaps in one of the two buildings. Thank you! I love the poem!

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