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Chan Lowe: The anniversary of 9/11


Ten years seems like a long time, but drawing this anniversary cartoon reminded me of the anger, sadness, mistrust, paranoia and panic of the period immediately following the 9/11 attacks. Remember the anthrax scare, and the run on Cipro? Remember when American flags sprouted on every house and car? Remember when those seeking to curtail the Bill of Rights were using the phrase, “The Constitution was not meant to be a suicide pact?”

Even more poignant was a fleeting moment when all Americans were united, for the first time in our memory, as one nation. No black people, no white people, no brown, red or yellow—just Americans, banded together in the face of a common threat to our way of life. And, in our naivete, we thought the unity would last.

For better or worse, America has moved on from those days, a changed nation.

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Lives Forever Changed

Yesterday the sun was shining bright.
I walked down the street, passing people by,
Not even bothering to stop and say hi.
I went to work, another day of the old grind.
I couldn’t wait to put the work away
and put the day behind
Work now finished I hit the streets again.
It felt good to step onto the concrete.
It felt good to put distance between
Me and those grand towers,
If only for a few hours.
On the way to the subway
my cell phone rang.
As I walked hurriedly to catch the train,
I spoke to a friend.
We made plans to meet
at our favorite diner
Near the World Trade Center
Finally on the train, I found a seat,
In the furthest corner, way in the back.
I passed people by I’d see every day
A sea of faces, I know not their names.
I sat down in my seat with a sigh of relief;
A reprise, although it’s but brief.
Tomorrow will be here soon enough,
Until then I’m going to clear my mind,
And stop thinking of work and those towers I left behind.
Today I woke late and skipped breakfast, no time.
Coffee and donuts is all I’ll have to eat,
Before I head out to the street.
A cab will be my mode of transportation today.
Crowded sidewalks would only slow me down
in my rush to get through town.
As luck would have it, traffic is jammed
So, with my cell phone in hand,
I call my boss to let him know I’d be there soon,
He sounded like Jackie Gleason,
Ready to send me to the moon.
I’m finally here, just a few more steps away;
The inviting automatic door opens wide
To allow me entrance inside.
But, before I could take another step
I heard a deafening noise.
An earth crumbling,
Thunder booming,
Glass shattering blast
I swiftly moved back
As did others I knew not.
What we looked upon was oh, so awful
One of those mighty towers was on fire.
Stunned, all we could do was stare.
Then, all hell broke loose.
We all scrambled away
My throat, it felt
As though, it was tied by a noose.
“What happened,” I screamed
when I found my voice.
No one answered, no one could speak,
But within minutes that were few,
I understood.
For, as I stood watching in horror
A plane came into view,
And with lightening speed,
The second tower was aflame.
How could this be?
This was insanity.
I stood transfixed, frozen with fear,
Staring blankly as those that were near;
Then the shrill of sirens began to blare.
Police and rescuers moved forward,
Even as they ordered us back,
Reminding us to beware.
I began to run with the crowd
then, stopped dead in my tracks
and turned around.
As those grand towers began to crumble
Floor by floor
I looked up in horror.
It only got worse, watching from the ground,
For now, from the windows up above,
People were jumping earthbound.
Dust and smoke filled the air
There was nothing left standing of the pair.
I ran with people I did not know.
Not one of us knowing where to go;
Out of the mass confusion and turmoil,
My senses heightened,
I heard a cry, not loud or intense,
No more than a mere whisper;
I looked to my right,
There I saw
A girl crouched down in horrible fright.
I stopped to help her.
Although I myself was burdened with worry
I told her, “Please we must hurry.”
I pulled her with me, although I knew her not.
I kept moving, all the while holding her hand tightly.
As we ran, she sobbed silently.
I just kept telling her: we can, we can…
Not once looking back to where we’d been.
Finally a safe distance away,
I stopped and held her tight;
As she cried the tears I could not shed.
Then, when I thought those tears would never end;
She looked at me, as if I were her new best friend.
I knew her face, though not her name;
She’d sat in front of me on the train.
Last night she was a familiar stranger; I’d seen but never met.
Now, I had become her safety net.
While chaos was happening all around,
Neither of us spoke, we just held each other near.
Trying to dispel some of the horrifying fear,
My thoughts turned to twelve hours before,
To when we’d been on the train,
Not knowing each other’s name.
Now as we stood together
we knew things would never be the same.
We knew our lives had been forever, changed…

Maureen, thank you for sharing such a moving work. I try not to remember, but I should, we should all remember.
Chan, thank you for your thoughts and reminding us how united we really can be.

Great blog and poem by Maureen! I will never forget that day.

Thank Mr. Lowe for your tribute to September 11,2001.

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About the author
Chan LoweCHAN LOWE has been the Sun Sentinel’s first and only editorial cartoonist for the past twenty-six years. Before that, he worked as cartoonist and writer for the Oklahoma City Times and the Shawnee (OK) News-Star.

Chan went to school in New York City, Los Angeles, and the U.K., and graduated from Williams College in 1975 with a degree in Art History. He also spent a year at Stanford University as a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow.

His work has won numerous awards, including the Green Eyeshade Award and the National Press Foundation Berryman Award. He has also been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His cartoons have won multiple first-place awards in all of the Florida state journalism contests, and The Lowe-Down blog, which he began in 2008, has won writing awards from the Florida Press Club and the Society of Professional Journalists.
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