The attacks of September 11th were very difficult for me as they were for many people. It was the last year of my MFA program. In addition to teaching and flying, I was finishing my thesis which was a book length collection of poetry about a flight attendant named Kimberlie.
I was surprised some flight attendants were able to work right away. I was afraid there were going to be more attacks. I took an unpaid week off which the airline allowed us to do without a problem. After a week, I had to go back to work. I was scared and grieving but broke. In the briefing I had with the two other flight attendants prior to our trip, I told them I was scared and it was my first trip back. One of the other young women said, “I’m scared too, it’s my first trip too. My mom is coming on all our flights with us.” Her mom could pass ride space available for free as part of our employee benefits and it wasn’t a problem getting on any of the flights because they were all practically empty. In spite of what anyone may think, I fully admit I was so glad to have a mom there watching over us. The other young woman working with us didn’t seem frightened at all. Her husband was a high school history teacher and the attacks caused him to change his entire course to 9/11 backstory. For the first time in his teaching career, his students were enthralled.
Of course, flying and finishing assignments and my thesis, 9/11 entered the poems. The fear I felt. The images I saw. Very shortly after 9/11, I went to the Hong Kong Ladies’ Night Market where a vendor was selling t-shirts with screened images of the Twin Towers burning right before they collapsed. The shirts were hanging outside his booth, high on display. He saw me looking at them with shock and disgust and he looked at me indignantly as if to say, “That’s right.”
I had scheduled for Eileen Tabios to be the Guest Author in the class I was teaching. She spoke to the class about the difficulty of finding language immediately after a tragedy occurs. Grappling with language myself, all I could see was the image of the dust settling and feel a sense of quiet dislocation. Images without sound. It became the final poem of the collection.