Tasting Life Twice

Archive for the category “Things Remembered”

Wage Peace

by Judyth Hill

Wage Peace with your breath.

Breathe in firemen and rubble,
breathe out whole buildings and flocks of red wing blackbirds.

Breathe in terrorists
and breathe out sleeping children and fresh mown fields.

Breathe in confusion and breathe out maple trees.

Breathe in the fallen and breathe out lifelong friendships intact.

Wage peace with your listening: hearing sirens, pray loud.

Remember your tools: flower seeds, clothes pins, clean rivers.

Make soup.

Play music, memorize the words for thank you in 3 languages.

Learn to knit, and make a hat.

Think of chaos as dancing raspberries,
imagine grief
as the outbreath of beauty
or the gesture of fish.

Swim for the other side.

Wage peace.

Never has the word seemed so fresh and precious:

Have a cup of tea and rejoice.

Act as if armistice has already arrived.
Celebrate today.

For the Falling Man by Annie Farnsworth

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– Annie Farnsworth

I see you again and again
tumbling out of the sky,
in your slate-grey suit and pressed white shirt.
At first I thought you were debris
from the explosion, maybe gray plaster wall
or fuselage but then I realized
that people were leaping.
I know who you are, I know
there’s more to you than just this image
on the news, this ragdoll plummeting—
I know you were someone’s lover, husband,
daddy. Last night you read stories
to your children, tucked them in, then curled into sleep
next to your wife. Perhaps there was small
sleepy talk of the future. Then,
before your morning coffee had cooled
you’d come to this; a choice between fire
or falling.
How feeble these words, billowing
in this aftermath, how ineffectual
this utterance of sorrow. We can see plainly
it’s hopeless, even as the words trail from our mouths
—but we can’t help ourselves—how I wish
we could trade them for something
that could really have caught you.

Portraits of Grief

Earlier in the week, we had a memorial service on campus to remember the victims of the 9/11 terrorists attacks. During the service we read some of the names of those who died and also shared some of their stories as they were written up by the New York Times. Shortly after 9/11, The Times had a team of reporters contact families who had lost a loved one and the writers assembled a collage of small biographical sketches of each person for whom they had information.  The tributes were around 150 words each and tried to capture something unique about each individual: an anecdote or two that focused more on their life than their death.  The project won the Times a Pulitzer and was a wonderful way to redeem the memory of the dead from the anonymity of casualty statistics.  To quote Dorothy Parker and later, Jay-Z, there are “8 million stories” out there in New York.  And on 9/11 there were nearly 3,000 stories that would need to be told.  We also read two beautiful poems, “For the Falling Man” by Annie Farnsworth and “Wage Peace” by Judyth Hill. 

This morning, at a memorial service in Columbia, the sky was as beautiful today as it was in New York City ten years ago. 

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Ten Years Ago

I was on my way to meet a friend at a coffee shop. It was a beautiful, sun-drenched day. I was near the intersection of Old 63 and Blue Ridge next to the former Academy of Fine Arts when I heard Tom Bradley, a local DJ, first report the news on a local music station. “We have just received a news report that a small commuter plane has just hit one of the Twin Towers in New York City. We’ll follow this story and give you more details as they emerge.” The music continued. I made my way to Osama’s Coffee Shop near the university campus. I mentioned the story to my friend Brad. He hadn’t heard about it yet. Not long after, our church secretary called me and asked if I heard about the plane striking the twin towers. I told Dorothy I had heard something about a “small twin engine Cessna” and they thought it was a commuter plane but I hadn’t heard anything more. She told me about a second plane and that they were commercial jets. We knew then it was much, much worse.

Brad and I immediately started looking for the nearest television. We went across the street to the new journalism school building on the campus of the University of Missouri. We walked into the main newsroom and watched the television coverage alongside a group of journalism students and their professor. While we were there, the instructor was trying her best to direct the students in their reporting assignments. But this wasn’t just another news story and the professor would grow speechless like the rest of us, as together we watched this horror unfold.

For the better part of that week, we were glued to the television. I went out early the next morning and got a copy of some different newspapers at Barnes and Noble, which was holding its grand opening. The following Sunday, we read through the entirety of Lamentations in our service of worship.

Another thing I’ll never forget. I had to be in Washington D.C. shortly after 9/11. Few people were traveling at the time. Airport security had tightened. I was on an average size commercial jet and there were only ten people on the flight. The nearest person sitting next to me was probably ten rows away. It was eerie. We were given the FAA warnings that if anybody got up from their seat in the last thirty minutes of the flight, the plane would be diverted. While in DC, I took the metro rail to the Pentagon and saw the destruction. I was shooting black and white film that weekend for another assignment I was working on and took some pictures of the Pentagon site. It was appropriate. When tragedy and grief strike, the world seems to lose its colors.

9/11 was our generation’s Pearl Harbor, our “day which will live in infamy”.

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