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Remembrances of 9/11

September 7, 2016


NOTE:  Since Sunday marks the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11, I am sharing once again with you some of my recollections of that week in 2001.  The closing of this piece indicates the date when I originally posted this document on my Wordwalk blog.  (The following prose poem and book note include a few additions and slight revisions.)



Remembrances of 9/11:  The Day the World Changed


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



On 9/11—when the world, hearts, and fears changed–

I heard the unraveling news before teaching my first class.

With a new mindset and hidden prayers, I taught some classes

before our college was closed at two o’clock.


Since I did not know what the next hours and days would bring,

I felt a need to do some work in my office—

a need to do something.

I stayed in M-303

until the campus was too quiet for me.


When my guide dog and I finally began our twenty-five minute walk home,

the downtown area of Milwaukee was so still, so hushed

that I felt as if we were walking through the Twilight Zone

but ironically, the sun was shining.

The world, the city, my walk—

everything felt different that day.

As I held the harness and leash of my yellow Lab,

I never realized

that a young man’s hand had been on the harness of his yellow Lab


who guided Michael Hingson safely from the 78th floor of Tower 1

to home.


As I approached Milwaukee’s Twin Towers,

I decided to stop at my ground-floor bank;

however, the entry door was locked.

In the midst of all the emptiness,

a security guard came to the door

and—for the first and only time—asked for my ID

so that I could enter the building.


Soon after, my Leader Dog Heather and I

walked home through the absence of people and cars,

through the empty sidewalks and silent streets.


Then, I joined the world and watched

the all-encompassing coverage of the unbelievable.

The daughter of a firefighter,

I had to force myself to stop

imagining all the ends of too many stories.


In the common state of numbness and prayers,

I vaguely remember

that Tuesday became Wednesday,

Wednesday drifted into Thursday.

Then, on 9/15, when Friday barely opened into Saturday,

a quarter past midnight,

shortly after I had fallen into a deep sleep,

I was awakened by an unusual noise—

seemingly right outside my upstairs bedroom window.

Arousing more fully,

I determined that I was hearing

the whirring and clattering

of a helicopter swooping back and forth,

up and somewhat down, again and again,

dangerously dancing with the wind,

very near my townhouse

which is next door to a 22-story skyscraper of apartments.


As I grabbed my jogging jacket

and gently touched my calm Lab,

the attempts of the helicopter repeated and repeated.


On that fifteenth of September,

all I could think of was September 11.

With Heather at my side and a phone in hand,

I wondered whom to call, what to do.

Once-in-a-lifetime thoughts landed in my head:

“Is that helicopter trying to assault the south tower?

What is it doing?”


I did not know whether to stay in my townhouse

or leave it.

Suddenly, a drop of the craziness of the world

was right outside my townhouse.

I had to do something.


Despite the high winds,

the helicopter’s repeating movements persisted.

I called the security guard at our south tower.

In the 21 years I have lived here,

that night of September 15

was the one and only time

a Flight-for-Life helicopter tried to land

on the major thoroughfare on which I reside.


Finally, unable to land the helicopter in the high winds—

so typical on these streets

where a wind tunnel is formed by the lake and the skyscrapers—

the pilot had to land a couple of blocks north.


Flight-for-Life was needed for a young man

who had driven his motorcycle

into the path of an on-coming car.

The Flight-for-Life helicopter

took the severely injured young man

to a Chicago hospital.


From atop my stairs, through my east window,

I could continue to hear the police at the scene.

They worked the scene for several hours.

The severely injured young man

had tried to commit suicide;

he was from the Middle East.


Eventually, Heather returned to her bed;

and beside her, I returned to my bed.

My neighborhood returned to the quiet of a September night,

but the world did not return to its pre-9/11 bed.

For a long time,

fears were mangled, magnified, and microscoped.

For a long time,

tears were translated, trapped, and traced.



Book Note:  Shortly after the 9/11 disaster, I heard, on the news, stories of two guide dogs who were in the World Trade Center during that shattering day.  In the autumn of 2011, thanks to the Hadley School for the Blind (Winnetka, Illinois), I had the opportunity to hear speak a truly awesome individual—Michael Hingson, who, with his guide dog Roselle, survived the tragedy of 9/11.  From his office on the 78th floor of Tower One, Mr. Hingson and his yellow Labrador Roselle safely went down 1,463 stairs, then met other challenges before arriving home safely together.  Ten years after 9/11, Mr. Hingson’s remarkable book—Thunder Dog:  The True Story of a Blind Man, His Guide Dog, and the Triumph of Trust at Ground Zero—was published in hard cover by Thomas Nelson Publishers.  I highly recommend this book and also suggest that you check out the website

for more information.  The commercial audio version of Thunder Dog, which includes a bonus of a superb speech by Mr. Hingson after the reading of his book, is a powerful , mesmerizing, and memorable listening experience.



With prayers for peace for all who were touched by 9/11,

Alice Massa


September 10, 2013, Tuesday


POST-SCRIPT:  As on September 10, 2013, and as on September 11, 2001, American flags are still displayed in the large front window of my townhouse and in my kitchen window to honor all who served our country, all who currently serve the USA, and all who sacrificed for our homeland.  God bless America and all of its First Responders!


September 7, 2016, Wednesday



From → Uncategorized

  1. Alice.
    Yes, I too remember, and I will never ever forget. God bless those we lost on that unforgettable day, and praise to those who serve to protect.

    • Deon–Thanks for adding your important words and sentiments.

      Have a good semester–Alice and Willow

  2. Sue McKendry permalink

    Alice, I too remember that day as it was one of the few times I called in sick to my teaching job. My husband had taken my mother to adult day care and called from town about 9 am, telling me to turn on the TV. When I asked him what channel, he said it didn’t matter. What I recall most vividly was the beautiful blue sky and sunshine around NYC, and the contrast it provided to the sickening destruction. Michael Hingson’s book is amazing and I would encourage folks to read it. I’ve shared it with friends and relatives, and they all agree it is a “must read.”

    I can only imagine how terrified you were by the helicopter’s constant circling above your residence, and I never knew about the young man’s suicide attempt and his ties to the middle east.

    Thank you for this poignant post.


    • Sue–Thanks so much for adding your recollections and comment. I also appreciate your seconding the recommendation of Michael Hingson’s outstanding book.

      Take care–Alice and Willow

  3. Alice, your reflections of 9/11 are as moving today as they were in 2013. I, like many others, remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I heard the unbelievable news bulletins. Let’s pray that our country will never experience again such a horrifying day.
    With love and peace,

  4. Paula J. Lumb permalink

    Thanks you, Alice. Your writing always touches me deeply.

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