Thursday, September 11, 2008


None of my students were older than middle school on September 11, 2001; my own children were only a year old and almost 3. Yet I share this poem on this date because I want them to understand the significance of the tragedy. I might never know how much it helps to illuminate not only the devastation of lives & families, but also the invidual beauty of each life lost; I can only hope someday it is clear. I think all of us somtimes forget how much we really mean to the people around us, even if we're not rich or famous - or even if we are. Each of us matters, and somebody is noticing.

by Martin Espada (Thank you)

Alabanza: In Praise of Local 100

for the 43 members of Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Local 100, working at the Windows on the World restaurant, who lost their lives in the attack on the World Trade Center

Alabanza. Praise the cook with a shaven head
and a tattoo on his shoulder that said Oye,
a blue-eyed Puerto Rican with people from Fajardo,
the harbor of pirates centuries ago.
Praise the lighthouse in Fajardo, candle
glimmering white to worship the dark saint of the sea.
Alabanza. Praise the cook's yellow Pirates cap
worn in the name of Roberto Clemente, his plane
that flamed into the ocean loaded with cans for Nicaragua,
for all the mouths chewing the ash of earthquakes.
Alabanza. Praise the kitchen radio, dial clicked
even before the dial on the oven, so that music and Spanish
rose before bread. Praise the bread.

Praise Manhattan from a hundred and seven flights up,
like Atlantis glimpsed through the windows of an ancient aquarium.
Praise the great windows where immigrants from the kitchen
could squint and almost see their world, hear the chant of nations:
Ecuador, México, Republica Dominicana,
Haiti, Yemen, Ghana, Bangladesh.
Praise the kitchen in the morning,
where the gas burned blue on every stove
and exhaust fans fired their diminutive propellers,
hands cracked eggs with quick thumbs
or sliced open cartons to build an altar of cans.
Alabanza. Praise the busboy's music, the chime-chime
of his dishes and silverware in the tub.
Alabanza. Praise the dish-dog, the dishwasher
who worked that morning because another dishwasher
could not stop coughing, or because he needed overtime
to pile the sacks of rice and beans for a family
floating away on some Caribbean island plagued by frogs.
Alabanza. Praise the waitress who heard the radio in the kitchen
and sang to herself about a man gone.

After the thunder wilder than thunder,
after the shudder deep in the glass of the great windows,
after the radio stopped singing like a tree full of terrified frogs,
after night burst the dam of day and flooded the kitchen,
for a time the stoves glowed in darkness like the lighthouse in

like a cook's soul. Soul I say, even if the dead cannot tell us
about the bristles of God's beard because God has no face,
soul I say, to name the smoke-beings flung in constellations
across the night sky of this city and cities to come.
Alabanza I say, even if God has no face.

Alabanza. When the war began, from Manhattan and Kabul
two constellations of smoke rose and drifted to each other,
mingling in icy air, and one said with an Afghan tongue:
Teach me to dance. We have no music here.
And the other said with a Spanish tongue:
I will teach you. Music is all we have.


Janet said...

Oh, Stephanie. This got to me more than anything else I've read today. So beautiful, so powerful, thank you for posting it. Seven years...

Danielle said...

Thank you for sharing. A touching poem and reminder of the tragedy of this day.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

How amazing to have a different perspective. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

now I'm crying at my desk- it seems like yesterday in a lot of ways. 7 years gone. A beautiful poem-karolyn

LarryG said...

a very fitting commemorative for the day Al Qaeda escalated unthinkable brutality on the melting pot we call our lovely USA!

(it's sort of like alabama and bonanza combined - i really love that)

Melanie Sheridan said...

Thank you Stephanie. I was watching the History Channel a little while ago. A photographer for the NYT had completed an assignment on WTC employees, the elevator operator, window washers etc.

Fire and police workers are the heroes of that terrible day, but everyone lost was someone's father, wife, son or daughter and they all need to be honored.

Cheri @ Blog This Mom!® said...

Thank you for posting this. Beautiful.

~Swankymama said...

What a wonderful post for today! :o)

JCK said...

This was an exquisite poem. Thank you.

Lisa Wheeler Milton said...

*thank you*

Leann I Am said...

It's so real to read these things and hear the reports and see the families on the news and...

Just so real. Thanks for sharing. That was beautiful.

shrink on the couch said...

That is a wonderful poem. Its so nice to honor the largely unknown heroes. Thanks for posting it. And yes, its hard to believe its been seven years. It feels like seven months.


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