Martin Richard, Age Eight


A month after my brother turned two,
and a month before I turned four,
some freak attack changed our nation.
Forever.

It was my first day of pre-school,
and I know I was excited,
so when Mommy came to pick me up,
no more than seventeen minutes after she dropped me off,
I cried.
Because she was crying.
She was going to be thirty-seven in one week,
and I did not know it at the time,
but she wasn't crying because I didn't get to go to school.

The south tower fell at 9:59 in the morning,
fifty-six minutes after being hit out of nowhere.
Unexpectant.
The north tower fell at 10:28 in the morning,
one hundred two minutes after being hit out of nowhere.
Unexpectant.

On that brilliant day in September,
our nation came together like never before.
Neighbors, brothers, sisters,
and complete strangers held each other
surrounded by the debris of the fallen.
Crying.
Crying.
Crying.
This is America,
and this, we will not stand for!

Two thousand, nine hundred, ninety-six.
And six thousand more who yes,
may physically recover,
but will never understand why they made it out.
Why they survived.
I don't know if there's a god,
but if there is,
he was certainly looking out for them that day.

I don't remember watching the news,
hearing the screams,
seeing people spread their wings,
as they jumped.
Going down,
down,
down,
down in our nation's history forevermore.

Four months before my brother turns fourteen,
six months before I have my sweet, sweet sixteen,
this day, this beautiful holiday,
has changed our lives.
Forever.

We go every year, without fail,
to hand out oranges, to cheer with our hearts.
I often lose my voice.
And the years when the heat is too brutal,
we hand out cup after cup of water.

We left at 1:44 in the afternoon.
It was cold.
We walked home, stopping to purchase some food,
and stopping again to hug a few friends.
Unaware.
We arrived home just as it happened,
mere miles away,
and we smiled and laughed in the kitchen.
Unaware.

I turned on the news to see one explosion,
only feet from the finish line,
followed fifteen seconds later by a second explosion,
barely an eighth of a mile away.
I could hear the screams over both of the booms,
and I could see shocked, innocent people,
sitting amongst their own blood,
surrounded by limbs that were not theirs.
Crying.
Crying.
Crying.
This is America,
and this, we will not stand for!

The number of fatalities and casualties
only increased as the night wore on
Heroes worked endlessly, tirelessly,
amongst friends and maybe even enemies,
on the runners and the spectators,
robbed of their glory.
Our nation's glory.

We had only been three miles away.
Matty was supposed to stop,
say hello, before he ran to the finish line,
as he does every year.
But he didn't see us, so he didn't stop,
and he reached the finish line ten minutes,
only ten minutes, before tragedy struck.
What if he had seen us and stopped?
I don't know if there's a god,
but if there is,
he was certainly looking out for us today.

I will remember watching the news,
hearing the screams,
seeing people outstretch their arms
to any strangers around,
as they tumbled to the ground.
Going down,
down,
down,
down in our nation's history forevermore.

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