How to Honour the Heroes of 9/11 by Alan Jankowski

At the time of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, I was driving North on the Garden State Parkway here in New Jersey. I lived in Parlin at the time, and scheduled to start a new job at 10:00AM that morning, up by Exit 156. I distinctly recall the initial radio reports, speculating that perhaps a small plane had accidently hit the tower after taking off from one of the local airports. Though I didn’t see the actual hit, I could clearly see the smoke rising from the towers through my windshield. When I arrived at the new job, there were people huddled around a small TV crying, and I recall one worker there who was an EMT saying he had been called in to report to the scene. Needless to say, that when I got there, I was sent back home for the day.

Back then I had yet to take up writing. My first short story was written and published April 21, 2009 on an erotic story site, and my first attempt at poetry followed several days later. Though my first poems were rather humor based, with an “adult” theme, throughout 2009 my poetry gradually became romantic rather than humorous, and love poems were not unusual, though all were publishable on the erotic story sites I started on. By early 2010 though, I had discovered dedicated poetry sites, and this opened up new possibilities for me. So, when I saw a thread in the forum over on erotic story site Lush Stories titled “September 11. Nine years later.” it wasn’t out of character for me to come up with the idea of writing a poem about 9/11, since I had already found places to publish poems that were neither erotic nor love poems.

At first, nothing immediately popped into my head. Then a couple of days later, on September 13, my netbook got stolen from the Somerville, NJ library. I was living in Somerville at the time, and spent a fair amount of time at the library. For the next three months after my computer got stolen, my writing became limited to writing poems on paper, usually on the back of library flyers. I would maximize my time on public computers by going to both the Somerville library, and the nearby Raritan library, which is only a short ten minute walk. One day, while walking back from the Raritan library, I got the idea of writing a poem honoring the heroes of 9/11. That day was September 29, 2010. I grabbed a library flyer, sat down at a table and wrote the lines “Heroes that would not turn their back, With determination that would not crack.” That whole first draft took me about four hours, to the best of my recollection. This is what it looks like. Note that I use parentheses around words I’m not sure I want to use, and underscore words I’m considering changing. The diagonal lines mean I used those lines in the next draft. It appears I used all the lines in the first draft except for “Who walked among us standing tall” which is probably a good thing.

first draft

Here is the opposite side btw…

first draft 1

The second draft was apparently done the next day, as is dated on the bottom. Note that it is missing a verse. I can’t recall the exact reason for that, but I do remember I spent a significant amount of time, at least an hour, finding a replacement for the word “source” since I had originally written one of the lines as “A source of goodness on that day” and was not happy with that at all. If you look at the upper right corner of the first draft, you’ll see “embodiment/essence.” It took me a while to decide on “embodiment” but I believe it’s the most appropriate word.

2nd draft

The third draft includes the missing verse, with the finalized line “An embodiment of goodness on a day” as well as the poem finally getting a title. I believe “We Shall Never Forget” seems most appropriate.

3rd draft

I posted the poem on a few poetry sites that day, September 30, 2010. The first it would have appeared on would be Got Poetry, and someone there commented that it focused on the better aspects of that day, which I believe is a big part of its widespread appeal. I went the extra step that day, and did a search to see if there were any dedicated 9/11 poetry sites, and the first that appeared was a site called “9-11 Heroes.” I posted the poem on that site as well, which I believe to be a contributing factor in its widespread use.

One day in the summer of 2011, I happened to notice a comment left on the poem over on Poetry Craze, which is the most viewed poetry site. The comment read “I would like to use this poem for my church’s 9/11 dedication. It is one of the better 9/11 poems/tributes that I’ve read.”

I was so impressed that someone would actually want to use my poem in their church’s 9/11 ceremony, that I attempted to contact the author of the comment by sending him a message through Facebook. I wanted to thank him, as well as being curious as to which church it was and the like. Since I still hadn’t heard back from him by September 11 of that year, I decided to do a quick Google search out of curiosity, just to see if anything might turn up. What did turn up went way beyond anything I could have possibly imagined, and it literally took me four days to go through all the Google results. I did a public forum post that year, the tenth anniversary, of some of the highlights, mostly print stuff, police, military and school uses, and ceremonies. There was even more, but I had to remove a couple links as they became “archived.” Here is the post.

http://www.storiesspace.com/forum/yaf_postst538_My-911-Tribute-poem-has-been-in-print-at-least-fourteen-times-in-2011.aspx

Anyway, that’s the story of my 9/11 tribute poem, and I’m continually amazed at the extent of its use since. Let me leave you with my poem btw…thanks, Alan (09-10-13).

Recalling the better aspects of humanity on that day…the heroes…

We Shall Never Forget (9-11 Tribute)

Let the world always remember,
That fateful day in September,
And the ones who answered duty’s call,
Should be remembered by us all.

Who left the comfort of their home,
To face perils as yet unknown,
An embodiment of goodness on a day,
When men’s hearts had gone astray.

Sons and daughters like me and you,
Who never questioned what they had to do,
Who by example, were a source of hope,
And strength to others who could not cope.

Heroes that would not turn their back,
With determination that would not crack,
Who bound together in their ranks,
And asking not a word of thanks.

Men who bravely gave their lives,
Whose orphaned kids and widowed wives,
Can proudly look back on their dad,
Who gave this country all they had.

Actions taken without regret,
Heroisms we shall never forget,
The ones who paid the ultimate price,
Let’s never forget their sacrifice.

And never forget the ones no longer here,
Who fought for the freedoms we all hold dear,
And may their memory never wane,
Lest their sacrifices be in vain.

09-30-10b. 

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