2024 Melinda Wyers
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Looking Up on 9/11/01

Brandy Bell Carter

On the way to math class
The first plane.
Then the second.
A girl named Jennifer brought the news.
(We became friends later on but never discussed that morning.)
I thought she was kidding.

“Don’t say that. It isn’t funny.”

“I’m not joking.”

After class, everyone on campus gathered
Beneath the TVs suspended from the ceiling.
Looking up.

It’s so different now
When a crisis happens,
We are all
Looking down
At our phones.
Islands of grief instead of
A continent of solidarity.
We’ve forgotten to remember that
No man is an island.

Later that afternoon
I tried to call  my family,
Standing at a payphone
For a long time.
As it rang,
And rang,
And rang,
And rang,
And rang.
I never did talk to anyone I loved that day.

I lingered outside until dark,
Looking up.
Swamped with dread.
No Planes
Up there.
I never slept.

I lay in bed under the shadow
Of the TVA dam,
(All that federally-owned concrete)
Waiting for it to blow apart,
For the Tennessee River to
Sweep me away while I gazed,
Looking up
At the popcorn ceiling.

Long afterward
On the news,
People’s answering machine messages
Leaked into the air.
The victims’ last words and goodbyes
Recorded for their beloveds
While everyone was
Looking up
At the sky on fire in Manhattan.

Brandy Bell Carter is a high school English teacher in Wake Forest, NC and lives nearby with her husband and hound dog. She is inspired by the beauty of nature, bluegrass, Mary Oliver's poems, and the Psalms. Her work has been published in The Wake Forest Review. Please say hi on X @englishbcarter.

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