Little Katie Ann

Last year on this day, I posted a poem called “This Moment,” describing my experience on 9/11.  Well, that poem was actually a revised, spin-off version of one I wrote in high school.  It’s called “Little Katie Ann,” and though it’s not as personal to my own experience, I’ve always thought it more real.

We forget that real people were involved in the tragedy of September 11, 2001.  It wasn’t just buildings that collapsed and a city left shaken.  It was the architecture of an entire nation forever altered.  It was the sudden loss of next-door neighbors, employers, grandmothers, best friends, and children.  It was the terror instilled in all of us from that day onward—a terror we live with every day and have come to accept as innate parts of being human.  But it’s not natural for the hair on our arms to stand a little when a loud plane flies overhead or to have an automatic wariness towards men in foreign clothing. These things aren’t inherent, they were taught.  And they were taught to us by two crashing airplanes.

So though “Little Katie Ann” is nowhere near eloquent, it’s how I must think of 9/11 in order to understand the full weight of that day.  It’s about the simple, awful reality that suddenly struck us and the way we can respond to it even now, twelve years later.

“Little Katie Ann”

Little Katie Ann laced up her shoe.
She grabbed teddy, and blanky, and baby doll too.
In a frilly white dress, she walked to the car,
And Daddy said, “The airport’s not very far.”
And Mommy asked,
“Are you ready?”

The plane was enormous to such tiny eyes,
And her longing for Mommy she could not disguise.
She gazed out the window at the racing land,
And Daddy reached out to hold her hand.
Over the speaker, the pilot asked,
“Are you ready?”

She ate her small snack and sipped at her drink,
And when the dark man passed by, she did not even think.
But then she heard screaming and knew something was wrong.
The bullets rang out like a sinister song.
The dark man looked over his shoulder and asked,
“Are you ready?”

Little Katie Ann watched everyone cower
As the giant plane flew towards the glassy blue tower.
She sat in confusion and watched Daddy cry
And crawled in his lap and looked in his eye.
In a whisper he asked,
“Are you ready?”

So now I must wonder, Oh, indestructible ones,
Those with fathers, with mothers, with sons.
If it had been you in Little Katie Ann’s place,
Consider how you would have answered—just in case
If I had asked,
“Are you ready?”

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