Remembering September 11, 2001 through Poetry

September 11, 2001, a day that will forever be etched in the collective memory of the world. It was a day of immense tragedy, loss, and a stark reminder of the fragility of human existence. In the wake of the devastating terrorist attacks, countless artists turned to their craft as a means of expressing their grief, anger, and hope. Poetry, in particular, became a poignant medium through which individuals sought solace, understanding, and healing. This article aims to explore the power of poetry in capturing the essence of September 11, 2001, and commemorating the lives forever changed by that fateful day.

  1. 1. "One Today" by Richard Blanco
  2. 2. "September 11th, 2001" by Wislawa Szymborska
  3. 3. "The Names" by Billy Collins

1. "One Today" by Richard Blanco

In his poem "One Today," Richard Blanco, the inaugural poet for President Barack Obama, pays tribute to the unity and resilience of the American people following the September 11 attacks. The poem serves as a reminder that even in the face of unimaginable tragedy, the spirit of a nation can rise above adversity.


One sky, toward which we sometimes lift our eyes
tired from work: some days guessing at the weather
of our lives, some days giving thanks, singing praise
for surviving another season, still whole,
though knowing we are mortal and must return
to dust, so every morning we kneel, humbly
to earth, giving it our thanks for providing
whatever we need to keep going, to stay,

2. "September 11th, 2001" by Wislawa Szymborska

Nobel laureate Wislawa Szymborska, in her poem "September 11th, 2001," encapsulates the sense of shock and bewilderment that engulfed the world on that tragic day. Through her poignant words, she conveys the universal human experience of grappling with the incomprehensible.


So many of them―
so many thousands.
All those names―
a single block of ice.
A river flowing past
with a thousand faces.
Still, a passerby
might ask:
And some passerby
would answer:
Ever since Adam.

3. "The Names" by Billy Collins

Former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins honors the individuals who lost their lives on September 11, 2001, in his moving poem "The Names." Through his meticulous attention to detail, Collins creates a sense of connection with each name, ensuring their memory endures.


Names wheeled into the dim warehouse of memory.
Names that broke and scattered like marbles.
Names shimmering on the ceiling of a church.
Names kept in a box in a grandmother’s closet.
Names written in the pale sky.
Names rising in the updraft amid buildings.
Names silent in stone
or cried out behind a door.
Names blown over the earth and out to sea.

These are just a few examples of the many powerful and evocative poems that emerged in response to the September 11 attacks. Through their verses, poets have managed to capture the raw emotions, honor the victims, and offer a glimpse of hope and resilience amidst the darkest of times. The act of writing and reading poetry about September 11, 2001, serves as a testament to our shared humanity, reminding us of the importance of remembrance, healing, and finding solace in art during times of immense tragedy.

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