When We Say The Missing

An excerpt from a poem, “A Lament for the Missing” written at 441 West 49th Street, Apartment 13, New York, NY 10019
on 9/18/2001 ©Elana A. Halberstadt

When we say the missing, we mean everything we have lost.
Everything that was supposed to be.
Everything we’ll never have.
Weddings and anniversary celebrations. Birthdays. Descendants.
Beyond the monumental life events, it is the mundane, everyday moments we
will miss the most.
The moments of the missing.
A dinner table with an empty seat.
A car parked without an owner to claim it.
When we say the missing, we mean the ones left behind have been deprived a
lifetime of
One more kiss.
A phone call to remind them to buy milk on the way home.
We mean children whose parents will never tuck them into bed, or tell them a
story, or
hold them to reassure them that the world can be a beautiful place.
We mean the photos and mementos covered in dust.
When we say dust and ashes,
We mean the concrete, the documents, and the souls devoured in flames.

When we say the missing, we mean what a miracle to survive.
We mean the near-misses.
The missing of being there that morning.
I was late that morning. I went to vote. I took my kid to school. I was on vacation.
I took a different flight.
That morning,
I wasn’t there, but I could have been.
The lucky ones who escaped down countless floors that we cannot stop
ask themselves, How did I get out? Why me?
We all ask ourselves,
Why am I saved and not the others?

8 thoughts on “When We Say The Missing

  1. It’s interesting that you posted this, E. We have been talking about this a lot, how those left behind might feel, how they deal with their guilt and how they really aren’t a part of this whole thing. We know someone who was the last living person out of one of the towers. She’s appalled by the “celebrations,” regardless of what they’re called by those arranging them, and tortured by the constant reminders. It’s a different perspective, one “they” don’t much address.

    1. I guess I was trying to express the helpless feelings….and hearing stories of people who got out…and just trying to understand what happened…
      and the survivor guilt that I think is inevitable…And the it could have been anyone aspect…As well as the focus it puts on anyone who survives such a thing. In order to cope,
      do they find new meaning in their life? Do they give up? I think mostly I was trying to cope with the enormous grief for the people who remained and lost someone. Is the person you mean Susan’s sister? I seem to recall a cover of one of the dailies and I had heard it was her. If she prefers confidentiality, of course, I’ll understand if you don’t tell me here. The whole thing is fraught. I felt speechless and wordless. Still do. Thanks.

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