Diane's Song

                  (Based on an interview with a Lower Manhattan resident)

When the plane passed right over our heads I thought it was

in trouble and trying to land in the water.

It hit the first building; then Kathryn said,

"We're under attack."  I thought, "Where is my daughter?"

I thought that an awful mistake had been made.

In the street all the people were running uptown

except for one man who, holding his head,

shouted, "No!" while running not up, but down.

And people were jumping from windows, a sight

I forgot for a year; did my eyes deceive me?
The second plane hit; then Kathryn turned and said,

"All right now, do you believe me?"

In the street a Jamaican woman stopped

as her legs buckled under her.  That mother

clasped her hands together and cried,

"My son in one building, my daughter in the other."

A woman stayed with her as Kathryn and I

ran home and told our neighbors to leave. 

We gathered our work, our clothes but that's

not all for it seemed everyone had cats.

We met downstairs, the neighbors with all

of their carrying cases when there before us

stood forty-two Seniors with no place to go.

"We can't leave," I said.  Kathryn said, "I know."

So we put back our stuff and we stayed as the cloud

engulfed our homes and insidiously

set up house in our lungs, as hour passed hour

we lost water, phones, then the rest of our power.

Someone said that he'd seen my missing kid.

She'd gone to a friend's house a block from the center.

Thank God that I didn't know then where she was.

To this day I can't get straight just what she did.

For the next several days, we drank powdered milk

courtesy of a curate who came in a truck.

Things seemed to be going OK until

someone said, "I just took my last heart pill."

We found medication; we manned the drugstore.
A mysterious stranger brought by sixty meals.

Over time we got back the power, the phones

and the water.  The toxics came too, more and more.

The government told us the air was OK

So we didn't think twice; we started to clean.

while a mile up north some scientists found

the most toxic small particles they'd ever seen.

Now the neighbors have come down with asthma and rashes,

with Trade Center cough and severe sinusitis.

I've had five infections; the cat has had three

and Kathryn and her cat have chronic bronchitis.

The rest of the world has moved on; people think

in the war against terror the U.S. is winning.

But we of downtown wonder if, for us,

September 11 was just the beginning.

Jenna Orkin

WTC Environmental Organization