The College of Staten Island marked the eighth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks with a Campus Memorial Service.
The service, held in the Campus Center Green Dolphin Lounge, featured remarks from College President Dr. Tomás Morales and CSI Student Government Senator Dennis Gaffigan.
The emotional highlight of the ceremony was the dramatic reading of original poems by two new faculty members in the English Department. (See full poems below.)
Assistant Professor Tyehimba Jess presented his poem “They rushed in,” which is dedicated to the firefighters and the police officers who were killed on 9/11. His first book of poetry, leadbelly: poems, was a winner of the 2004 National Poetry Series. Library Journal and Black Issues Book Review both named it one of the “Best Poetry
Books of 2005.”
Assistant Professor Patricia Smith, presented her poem “To the Woman, Not Trying to Fly, Who Fell with Her Legs Closed, Arms Pressed Against the Front of Her Body, While Primly Clutching Her Purse.” She is the author of five books of poetry including Blood Dazzler, chronicling the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, which was a finalist for the 2008 National Book Award and winner of The Paterson Poetry Prize for Sustained Literary Achievement; and Teahouse of the Almighty, winner of the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award.
Associate Dean for Student Affairs Michael Daniels closed the ceremony with a moment of silence, and reminding the College community of the Multifaith Center’s prayer and meditation room on campus, as well as the availability of professional counselors. Music was performed by CSI students Gerald Gallardo and Daniel Muccio.
They rushed in
by Tyehimba Jess
They rushed in,
oxygen in one hand,
axe in the other,
spreading their bodies
through the fire.
They rushed in:
they didn’t think,
they were one
sweat soaked reflex,
an army of nerve
each ascended door,
their voices squelched,
buried in smoke.
TO THE WOMAN, NOT TRYING TO FLY, WHO FELL WITH HER LEGS CLOSED, ARMS PRESSED AGAINST THE FRONT OF HER BODY, WHILE PRIMLY CLUTCHING HER PURSE
September 11, 2001
by Patricia Smith
You didn’t topple, cartwheel or plummet. You believed
that your descent, while swift, would end tenderly,
and that there would then be things to attend to.
While others fell past you, screeching for mercy
and splayed like stars, you aimed your pinpoint of body
towards a future that included checkbooks,
snapshots of squirming children,
a scarlet stump of lipstick.
There would be need for these things again.
Your keenly ordered mind couldn’t help but see the vertical
drop as a mere inconvenience. You didn’t hurtle, flail or pinwheel.
Your eyes straight ahead, your sweet drumming heart
struggling toward a fuss, you were most concerned with decorum,
the proper way for a lady to manage adversity. I watch your fall
and ready myself, for I have been called a lady too.
I will be there to help you to your feet,
to brush strands of the sky from your eyes.
For poets, these are difficult days.
We have at our disposal every letter of every syllable
of every word ever written or spoken in any language,
but when I attempt to bellow the word fly, I discover
that it can no longer conjure sound.
There’s the man with his skin fused to his shirt.
Perhaps he can tell us why.
There are hands, shoes, cell phones, sudden gifts
in the grit and rubble. Maybe they hold a clue.
There is that blue Toyota Camry sitting for nine days
in the train station lot in Tarrytown, there is have you
seen him her them he was she is brown eyes limp tattoo,
there are those thousands of mothers suddenly convinced
that their children had learned to (fly),
and chose that one fierce moment
to do so
My granddaughter is obsessed with the drawing of stars.
Each point must be perfect, meticulously measured,
twinkling beyond all reason. We have experimented
with the most efficient ways to manufacture whole
crayoned parades of starlight. We fill entire pages
with the nighttime skies where no fiery wink is allowed to flaw.
“Why are you so worried about how the stars look?” I ask.
Grandmaaaa, she says, in that slow exasperated whine
that makes me feel feeble and clueless and utterly loved,
A star has got to be perfect
before God lets it fall.