“For The Fallen” … A Remembrance of 9/11

By Steve Vertlieb: This is one of my proudest, most cherished possessions. Having written and published a multitude of poetry for decades, it was suggested by a variety of friends, following the nightmarish and utterly monstrous attack on The World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, that I compose a work of prose commemorating the lost lives and nobility of our countrymen and women whose lives were lost during that devastating assault on America.

I resisted the suggestion for days, feeling overwhelmed by the incomprehensible tragedy confronting our nation. How could I attempt a work of such shattering magnitude without sounding both impossibly pompous, and embarrassingly incompetent?

As the weight of individual responsibility consumed my thoughts and senses, over the days that followed the emotional and physical devastation of the heinous attack upon our people and culture, I began composing a work which I titled “For The Fallen.”

To my astonishment and surprise, my work seemed well received as a humbly poetic tribute to, and solemn remembrance of, those Americans whose lives had been so unforgivably slaughtered on that terrible day.


From the ashes of catastrophe
the smoldering spirit of freedom rose
like a phoenix in the mist

The cruel sword of oppression flailing
at the fabric of humanity
wielding devastation and horror
blinded by intolerance
pierced the proud heart of a nation

Great birds of prey
cowardly vultures
screamed in the morning sky
shattering the towers of civilization
plummeting the earth into a swirling sea of depravity

The dark ages beckoned
barbaric hordes ravaged the land
yet the unspeakable atrocities could not dim the light of righteousness
burning brightly through the ruin
a glorious inferno
ablaze with human dignity

Reason and goodness ascended from the darkness
purifying the air
cleansing winds proclaimed the rights of man
and the enduring reign of God
as civility and kindness shone once more upon the earth

Arrogance and cruelty fled, frightened
retreating into the darkness that spawned them

Men and women embraced
walking victoriously into the radiant light of truth
pulling the crippled and wounded from the rubble
lifting them upon their shoulders
climbing proudly out of the shadows and into the sunlight

The flag waved nobly on the horizon
and they smiled
cradled by its warmth
a sacred name upon their lips

Exultant, the word spoken reverently
until the black heel of oppression had been eradicated
and the virtuous reigned once more
joyously triumphant in God’s protection
their sweet nobility uplifting the tired and poor

Her name was sung
a cherished prayer
a shining beacon of hope and courage
whispered softly across the earth…..America…..America

…………….STEVE VERTLIEB 9/20/2001

In the months and years that followed, I’d been asked on several occasions to read my work with orchestral accompaniment at a variety of churches in the area. Each performance became an emotionally draining experience, and I found myself drowning in the symbolism and profoundly disturbing significance of my own words. Consequently, these “performances” became entirely too painful to “enact.”

I wanted to continue sharing these written images and thoughts with others, however, and so I sent a copy of my poetry to former President of The United States, William Jefferson Clinton. Not long after I posted this heartfelt commemoration of our fallen neighbors, I received this profoundly moving letter from Mr. Clinton’s office. It remains, for me, a precious memento of a timeless, historic, and unspeakable tragedy.

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