On Sept. 11, 2001, Marc Arena ’07 was in class
when his high school principal announced over the P.A. that the World Trade
Center towers were struck by two planes. He and his classmates at Pelham
Memorial High School in Pelham, N.Y. gathered around a radio, listening in
With an ear on the broadcast, and a pencil at hand, Arena wrote a poem.
“Bodies leaping from 61 floors. Like roaches in the light. The people flee
from the dark cloud. The shrapnel rain. Suffocating smog and fumes. Complete
darkness even in daylight,” Arena wrote.
Five years later, Arena presented this poem during a “9-11 Memorial” Sept.
11, 2006 in the Memorial Chapel. He was one of six speakers who offered a
reflection or poem during the 45-minute service, attended by Wesleyan
students, faculty and staff.
Jewish Rabbi David Leipziger Teva organized the service, noting that 1,825
days have passed since the terrorist attacks; 3,500 Wesleyan undergraduates
have received degrees; and a baby born on Sept. 11, 2001 could be attending
kindergarten this year.
Leipziger Teva read off 24 names of Wesleyan alumni and friends who perished
in the attacks, starting with Maile Hale ’97 and Andy Kates ’85.
“Let us reflect on all those who were killed five years ago today,” he said.
“They were our fathers, our wives and our children. They were alumni –
students who walked the halls we walk today. They were friends and loved
ones of our beloved Wesleyan community.”
Like Arena, Ethan Kleinberg, associate professor of history, associate
professor of letters, shared his memories of Sept. 11, 2001 with the
audience, mentioning that his first day teaching classes at Wesleyan was at
10:30 a.m. that morning. Not knowing what to do, he asked the students to
speak. Several wanted to explore the reasons of what led to the attacks.
Kleinberg followed his story with summarized points adapted from French
philosopher Georges Sorel’s “Reflections on Violence.”
By reading a Sanskrit prayer excerpt, Ron Jenkins, professor of theater,
mimicked how victims of terrorist bombings in Bali prayed during a ceremony
at Ground Zero.
“I chose to read and discuss this ceremony because I believe it is important
to understand 9/11 in an international perspective, and to reflect on
cultures like Balinese Hindus,” Jenkins said. “They live in the world’s
largest Muslim country and chose to respond to terror with art instead of
Elizabeth Willis, assistant professor of English, said as a poet, she was
struck by how poetry was being circulated on the internet post Sept. 11. She
read 1969 Pulitzer Prize poet George Oppen’s “Power of the Enchanted World”
and an excerpt from Walt Whitman’s poem, “Leaves of Grass.”
Other speakers included Karl Scheibe, professor of psychology, emeritus, who
read Robert Frost’s “Choose Something Like a Star,” and Jason Harris '09 who
shared a reflection titled “Is it Just a Myth?"
addition to the memorial, panelists spoke on the topic, "9/11 in Retrospect:
in what ways, if any, has the world changed?" in the Public Affairs Center.
Donald Moon, dean of the social sciences and John. E. Andrus Professor of
Government served as moderator.
Panelists included Peter Gottschalk, associate professor of religion; Bruce
Masters, professor of history; Joel Pfister, professor of English and Len
Burman,’75, director of the Tax Policy Center, Urban Institute and Brookings
Bells rang at 8:46 a.m.
and 9:02 a.m., the times when planes struck the World Trade Center.
By Olivia Bartlett, The Wesleyan Connection
The following poem was
written by Marc Arena '07 (pictured
listening to the radio during live broadcast coverage of Sept. 11, 2001.
The day shattered by the pierce of the
“The World Trade Center has been hit by a plane.”
Think nothing of it I thought until it collapsed
The World Trade Center fell
The Pentagon hit
Bush in the air
Light hearts reeled in
Fleeing along Broadway
Cell phone calls frantically placed
The inferno burned the towers like roman candles
Reporters choking back fear
To comfort and inform the people
The thickness of the smoke
Surpasses the tension in the air
War seems only footsteps away
My parents may have been called to aid the victims
Please don’t let that be true
Car bomb explosion
How long has this been planned?
“It is the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history”
Children stranded at schools
“New York City is on full terrorist alert.”
Family on Chambers St.
Ashley in school, crying
Fabienne at work, wondering
Jon at work, worrying
THE SECOND TOWER COLLAPSED!
Reporters are desperately attempting to state their names
Leave their recognition upon the world and their condolences to all
What can’t be said at the time can be read
Bodies leaping from 61 floors
Like roaches in the light
The people flee from the dark cloud
The shrapnel rain
Suffocating smog and fumes
Complete darkness even in daylight
Human coal dowsed with water
The state department possibly attacked
Thanks god I’m not 18
NYC is in shambles
One hour of chaos
The hum of work overshadowed
by the moans of fatality
Reports from the air suspended
Everyone is a suspect
The task was taken out successfully
In the kamikaze tradition
The globe paralyzed
The entire nation’s honorary capital is relatively destroyed
There might as well be war
This is war
Casualties are imminent
Giant flame-throwers erupt from the towers
Sirens blaring and muffling the sounds of panic
Half hour between collapses
“The word here is Oh My God.”
People trapped inside
“Smoke tidal wave.”
The skyline altered forever
The sky lined by smoked
The smoke lined by tears
Of a nation
Read another Sept. 11 poem, spoken
during the recent Memorial Service,