Subdued Reflection On Sept. 11 Anniversary

Sep 11, 2012
Originally published on September 11, 2012 4:39 pm

On the morning of the eleventh anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, the sound of bagpipes pierced the air at the site of the World Trade Center memorial in New York City.

At the Pentagon, in New York and in Shanksville, Pa., thousands of Americans came together to remember those who were killed in the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

NPR's Neal Conan listens to sounds from anniversary events across the country. He also reads a poem from Poetry After 9-11, an anthology by New York poets first published in 2002.

Going To Work


On their daily trips
Commuters shed tears now
Use American flags
Like veiled women
To hide their sorrows
Rush to buy throwaway cameras
To capture your twin ghosts

Frantically I too
Purchase your memory
On post cards & coffee mugs
In New York City souvenir shops
Afraid I'll forget your facade
Forget my hallowed Sunday
Morning Path Train rides
My subway travels through
The center of your belly
Day after day

Afraid I'll forget your powers
To transform helicopters
Into ladybugs gliding in the air
To turn New York City
Into a breathing map
To display the curvature
Of our world

From Poetry After 9-11 edited by Dennis Loy Johnson and Valerie Merians. Copyright 2012 by Nancy Mercado. Excerpted by permission of Melville House.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit


In New York this morning, in Washington, D.C. and in Pennsylvania, we woke to another crystal sky on another Tuesday, 9/11. Commemorations were more subdued than last year. Some family members said that came as a relief, as a kind of recognition that this day's changed with the passage of time and with the death of the architect of the atrocities.

In Shanksville, Pennsylvania, a memorial is under construction where Flight 93 crashed into a previously anonymous field. Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar...


SECRETARY KEN SALAZAR: When we journey to the hallowed grounds of Gettysburg and Yorktown, Selma and Pearl Harbor, and here in Shanksville, we come for something that is less visible. Rather we come here to connect with something inside of ourselves and to honor the history that has so shaped our nation. This is a place of reflection. This is a place where we sit quietly, listen to the wind chimes, feel the breeze across the rolling Pennsylvania farmland, and journey into the depths of our own thoughts.

It is a place to reflect on those who lost their lives here and in New York and in Virginia on that fateful day. It is a place to reflect on the strength of the families who suffered an unspeakable tragedy, but rededicated themselves as families so deeply to protecting this final resting place. It is a place to reflect upon the heroism of the passengers and crew of Flight 93 who refused to submit to terrorism, but, instead, heroically struck back. And it is a place to reflect upon the spirit of America, that spirit that binds together as we all share in our nation's triumphs and trials. Together, we built this memorial. Together, we come here on this 11th commemoration to honor our heroes.

CONAN: No politician spoke at ground zero in New York today, only family members. But as in years past, the names of the dead were read out in alphabetical order as music played in the background.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Ruben Esquilin, Jr.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Barbara G. Etzold.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Robert Edward Evans.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Meredith Emily June Ewart.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Catherine K. Fagan.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Patricia Mary Fagan.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Ivan Kryillos Fairbanks Barbosa.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Keith George Fairben.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Sandra Fajardo Smith.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Charles S. Falkenberg.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Donna Falkenburg.

CONAN: And in northern Virginia, the president of the United States spoke at the Pentagon.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We know that somewhere a son is growing up with his father's eyes, and a daughter has her mother's laugh, living reminders that those who died are with us still. So as painful as this day is and always will be, it leaves us with a lesson, that no single event can ever destroy who we are. No act of terrorism can ever change what we stand for. Instead, we recommit ourselves to the values that we believe in, holding firmly, without wavering, to the hope that we confess. That's the commitment that we reaffirm today.

CONAN: On this 11th anniversary, Melville House re-issued an anthology of New York Poets first published 10 years ago, called "Poetry After 9/11." Nancy Mercardo's poem is called "Going to Work."

(Reading) On their daily trips, commuters shed tears now, use American flags like veiled women to hide their sorrows, rush to buy throwaway cameras to capture your twin ghosts. Frantically, I, too, purchase your memory on postcards and coffee mugs in New York City souvenir shops, afraid I'll forget your facade, forget my hallowed Sunday morning path train rides, my subway travels through the center of your belly day after day, afraid I'll forget your powers to transform helicopters into ladybugs gliding in the air, to turn New York City into a breathing map, to display the curvature of our world.

As we close today's program, we hear "Taps" as was played earlier today on the South Lawn of the White House.


CONAN: Moments from the observances around the country today at the sites of the attacks of 9/11. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.