Friday, September 10, 2021

Hearts Recollect 9/11

On September 11th the world will stop to remember one of the saddest days in history. As a former member of the Rockville Centre community on Long  Island, I shall never forget the horror of devastation that rocked our small village. Forty-five members perished in the event on an ordinary day. A child lost her mother during the attack and a group of high school seniors grieved this loss during a candlelight ceremony. The town wept as did the state and nation for their losses during the horrific event. 

Last night while watching the ABC News Special 20/20 show, Women of 9/11:Twenty Years Later, with Robyn Roberts, I felt all over again the sting of sorrow, the disbelief of the happening, and the sadness that still exists. I turned to my blog posts regarding 9/11 and created a blackout poem prompted by this haunting photo.

 Women of 9/11:Twenty Years Later, ABC

So Many Stories, So Many Hearts Broken: A 9/11 Recollection

Nation remembers:
People perished,
New York City suffered.
Incredible sadness
Blasted air.
Tears touched the community.
Heavy hearts mourned
In solidarity.
Anguish witnessed attack.
Disbelief, despair
Rose from ashes.
Charcoaled faces,
Chaos, grief grew
In wake of disaster. 
9/11, harsh reality,
a retold journey.
©CVarsalona, 2021

Yesterday, the nation paused to remember a horrific event in its history. On September 11, 2001, a never-to-be-forgotten date, 3000 people perished in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Of that number, Rockville Centre, a small suburb of New York City, suffered considerable losses. 48 of my townspeople people died as a result of the "largest attack on US soil" on that fateful day.  

I shall never forget theincredincredible feeling of sadness mixed with panic as colleagues and I heard the news the morning of September 11, 2001. As the media blasted the air with news, it was very difficult to continue the day of elementary school as usual. Colleagues tried to connect with loved ones who went to work in New York City; worrisome looks multiplied; phone calls were interrupted; tears shed. When I arrived home, news of the attacks were haunting the neighborhoods of Rockville Centre.  A small group of concerned South Side high school students, my daughter being one of them, were touched by the events of the day that deeply affected one of their classmates.  The concerned peers formed a bond and brought the school community together in support of their friend whose mother was killed in the World Trade Building terrorist attack while her father was out of the country on business

That night, students, heavy in heart, led a vigil march through the neighborhoods. The sky, lit up by hundreds of candles held in the hands of mourners and supporters, marched in solidarity, bringing a town together during a time of deep anguish. Many people were not among the group, my husband being one of them. Although safe, he was forced to stay in New Jersey that night. Entrance back to Long Island was closed. After hours of no contact, he did bring us news of what he witnessed. As traffic slowed on  road from NYC to New Jersey, he, along with many motorists, saw the second plane attack the World Trade Center. During a night of disbelief and despair his story as well as many others rose from the ashes Wof a grim fate. There was the friend who led the NYC Bomb Squad searches; the first responder who traveled from Suffolk County to NYC to support the ravagedorld Trade Center; other friends who walked across the Brooklyn Bridge to come home from the havoc that ensued on Wall Street. There was the brave fireman from our next town who lost his life at the site and dozens of Rockville Centre neighbors who never came home from work that night. There were the charcoaled faces, broken dreams, and voices that could not speak of the horrors witnessed. But in all the chaos and grief, the town bonded and grew strength from each other. Ceremonies, monuments, memorial parks all created during the weeks that followed allowed a town to heal in the wake of disaster. 

The remembrance of
9/11 is a heavy one that never leaves one's heart. In our neighborhood, and across Long Island to New York City children were forced to deal with a harsh reality that life is fragile and dreams can be broken. Paralleling that message was the belief that hope can exist in a town despite devastating losses. Rockville Centre Mayor Francis Murray, summarized this feeling during his memorial speech on Sunday, September 8, 2013. "No community suffered more than Rockville Centre...but we did not just survive this tragedy, we prevailed." 

Stories have been told, repeated, and
retold over the past twelve years. Hearts have been mended, but Rockville Centre community members never forgot the losses. September 11, 2001 marked the day for a town to be brought to its knees. Subsequent years have marked the evolution of 9/11 stories into messages of courage, survival and new learnings about life's fragile journey.

as the bell tolls,
names are read,
flags unbound, waving proudly,
and heartbreaking headlines shared.

numbered in the sky,
is our town's tradition.
Village Green is ready.
We shall remember
and wait for a 
Rainbow of Possibilities.
©CVarsalona, 2019, Rockville Centre, NY


It's time to join the Poetry Friday Roundup at The Miss Rumphius Effect. Tricia Stohr-Hunt, our host this week, offers a Barbara Crooker poem on grief.


  1. Thank you for sharing your poems and your memories. What a shock that must have been for your community.

    1. Mary Lee, this weekend has been spent recalling the moments from 911. My son and I were noting that if we were in Rockville Centre we would have attended the memorials but since we are here in VA, we are still keeping the flame lit. Thanks for sharing this memory with me.

  2. Carol, my I haven't known anyone personally who had so many people from their community killed that day. What a greater shock for you who saw the smoke and ash and had people not come home that day. I was in Phoenix, Arizona, when it happened. Your retold journeys here are a nice tribute and memorial. Peace to you.

    1. I find peace this morning reading the comments from my poetry friends, Denise. I think back and pray for all the families that were struck by 9/11. If I were back on Long Island, I would be at the memorial services in our town and a nearby one but since I am not, I have images of what the services would be like and faith that everyone grieving will find hope in the light.

  3. I think those of us who remember that day are always in a dialogue with ourselves, and our memories, with regards to the events of 9/11, sI like how you turned to your own posts about the attack as the basis for your new poem. It reflects this idea. I can only echo Mary Lee, thank you for sharing your poems and your memories with us today.

    1. Elizabeth, I just read your poem and this thought made me stop to remember 9/11 again: "Some dots will always make us pause
      to remember." Thanks.

  4. Carol, I cried reading your poem and listening to "Fallen Heroes." I can only wish that those lost that day and who suffer now will never be forgotten.

    1. Last night there was another special about the children of 9/11 20 years later. I don't think 9/11 will ever be forgotten. There was hope in the hearts of the young adults that gave me such peace.

  5. Your words strike home in me. That day was such a nightmare that wouldn't end. The words in your blackout poem are so impactful for me as they are scattered throughout the blacked out lines. There's a heaviness between the bits of light. I cannot imagine the grief in LI even now. Thank you for putting words to it...finding the words, really.

    1. Linda, looking backwards to 911 is difficult but it was our village's reality. Life is fragile and uncertain and that horrific event proves this. When watching the special last night about the children of 911, I did feel the hope that sprouts from pain. 20 years later, COVID fills the world with sadness and yet we still hope for better times.

  6. Oh, Carol, I am sad to hear of so much loss in your community then. It was a day for all of us to mourn, but you & others closer were struck so hard. I love the poem & its origin and actually like that you showed the blackout of it, starkly there, that day years ago. Thanks for sharing your special remembrance.

    1. After reading your 9/11 poem, Linda, I can say the highlighted words in my poem are signposts of the darkness underneath-words that needed to be unearthed. Thanks for bringing that to mind. I shall keep this poem in my pocket to remember all the lives lost and the families that remained.

  7. Thank you for sharing your story and memory of that day twenty years ago. I was taken by the black out for. It is so appropriate.

    1. Jone, the blackout poem gave me comfort as I constructed it. It needed no doodles or zentangle art because the day twenty years ago was filled with black and light (My husband was traveling to NJ for work and saw the 2nd plane hit the tower. He had to stay in Jersey overnight but there was the thought that he would arrive safely home.)

  8. Carol, your post makes this horrific event so much more real. The world will never lose the shock of that day - or the sorrow. So much sadness. And yet, so much solidarity, too. Thinking of you as you remember that day - and the days that followed.

    1. Kat, you are right about the solidarity. My daughter and her friends organized a candlelight march in our village days after the happening. One of her fellow classmates' mother died in the first tower blowout of the 14th floor and her father was in Japan working at the time. The march was filled with tears and tribute.

  9. Replies
    1. Yes, that day was devastatingly sad, Ruth. In the elementary Gr 1-4 building that I was in (reading specialist), we tried our hardest to keep the classrooms going without interruption. Parents filtered in during the day to pick up their children. All TVs in classrooms were not supposed to be on so that parents could discuss the issue with the children when at home. Staff was worried about their own family. The sun was bright and beautiful as the Wall Street area of NYC went down in ruins.

  10. Thanks for this moving and poignant poem-tribute you composed honoring all those lives lost to 9-11 Carol. These lines stand out to me as I felt the emotion of them while hearing them and then viewing a replay of what happened,
    "Disbelief, despair
    Rose from ashes."
    Choosing a blackout poem is powerful and echoes the sadness too.

    1. Michelle, thank you for stopping by to honor the fallen heroes. What is hard for me to believe that the lessons we learned from this tragedy are not being honored today. The kindness and solidarity following 9/11 should be carried by all into this decade.