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Claremont Courier - A Local Nonprofit Newsroom

Rest in Peace: A poem about September 11, 2001

By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

Editor’s note: Claremonters Frederick and Mary Ann Brussat were living and working in Manhattan on 9/11. They were in their home in midtown but the magazine they worked for was located in the skyscraper behind the historic Trinity Church at the end of Wall Street, just three blocks from the Twin Towers. After they found out their colleagues had been safely evacuated from the area, they wrote a prayer poem called “Rest in Peace” about the tragedy. The poem went viral in the days after 9/11, continuing for months to come.

I am a World Trade Center tower, standing tall in the clear blue sky, feeling a violent blow in my side, and
I am a towering inferno of pain and suffering imploding upon myself and collapsing to the ground.
May I rest in peace.
I am a terrified passenger on a hijacked airplane not knowing where we are going or that I am riding on fuel tanks that will be instruments of death, and
I am a worker arriving at my office not knowing that in just a moment my future will be obliterated.
May I rest in peace.
I am a pigeon in the plaza between the two towers eating crumbs from someone’s breakfast when fire rains down on me from the skies, and
I am a bed of flowers admired daily by thousands of tourists now buried under five stories of rubble.
May I rest in peace.
I am a firefighter sent into dark corridors of smoke and debris on a mission of mercy only to have it collapse around me, and
I am a rescue worker risking my life to save lives who is very aware that I may not make it out alive.
May I rest in peace.
I am a survivor who has fled down the stairs and out of the building to safety who knows that nothing will ever be the same in my soul again, and
I am a doctor in a hospital treating patients burned from head to toe who knows that these horrible images will remain in my mind forever.
May I know peace.
I am a tourist in Times Square looking up at the giant TV screens thinking I’m seeing a disaster movie as I watch the Twin Towers crash to the ground, and
I am a New York woman sending e-mails to friends and family letting them know that I am safe.
May I know peace.
I am a piece of paper that was on someone’s desk this morning and now I’m debris scattered by the wind across lower Manhattan, and
I am a stone in the graveyard at Trinity Church covered with soot from the buildings that once stood proudly above me, death meeting death.
May I rest in peace.
I am a dog sniffing in the rubble for signs of life, doing my best to be of service, and
I am a blood donor waiting in line to make a simple but very needed contribution for the victims.
May I know peace.
I am a resident in an apartment in downtown New York who has been forced to evacuate my home, and
I am a resident in an apartment uptown who has walked 100 blocks home in a stream of other refugees.
May I know peace.
I am a family member who has just learned that someone I love has died, and
I am a pastor who must comfort someone who has suffered a heart-breaking loss.
May I know peace.
I am a loyal American who feels violated and vows to stand behind any military action it takes to wipe terrorists off the face of the earth, and
I am a loyal American who feels violated and worries that people who look and sound like me are all going to be blamed for this tragedy.
May I know peace.
I am a frightened city dweller who wonders whether I’ll ever feel safe in a skyscraper again, and
I am a pilot who wonders whether there will ever be a way to make the skies truly safe.
May I know peace.
I am the owner of a small store with five employees that has been put out of business by this tragedy, and
I am an executive in a multinational corporation who is concerned about the cost of doing business in a terrorized world.
May I know peace.
I am a visitor to New York City who purchases postcards of the World Trade Center Twin Towers that are no more, and
I am a television reporter trying to put into words the terrible things I have seen.
May I know peace.
I am a boy in New Jersey waiting for a father who will never come home, and
I am a boy in a faraway country rejoicing in the streets of my village because someone has hurt the hated Americans.
May I know peace.
I am a general talking into the microphones about how we must stop the terrorist cowards who have perpetrated this heinous crime, and
I am an intelligence officer trying to discern how such a thing could have happened on American soil, and
I am a city official trying to find ways to alleviate the suffering of my people.
May I know peace.
I am a terrorist whose hatred for America knows no limit and I am willing to die to prove it, and
I am a terrorist sympathizer standing with all the enemies of American capitalism and imperialism, and
I am a master strategist for a terrorist group who planned this abomination.
My heart is not yet capable of openness, tolerance, and loving.
May I know peace.
I am a citizen of the world glued to my television set, fighting back my rage and despair at these horrible events, and
I am a person of faith struggling to forgive the unforgivable, praying for the consolation of those who have lost loved ones, calling upon the merciful beneficence of God/Lord/Allah/Spirit/Higher Power.
May I know peace.
I am a child of God who believes that we are all children of God and we are all part of one another.
May we all know peace.

About the authors: Rev. Frederic Brussat and Rev. Mary Ann Brussat are residents of Pilgrim Place, having moved to Claremont in 2015 to establish The Center for Spirituality and Practice on Foothill Ave. Co-founders of the nonprofit behind S&P, they now direct the content on SpiritualityandPractice.com.

The authors explain their approach in the poem:

“The poem is a prayerful attempt to empathize with all of those affected by this terrible tragedy — the victims, rescue workers, and survivors, of course, but also the pigeons and the flowers in the plaza buried by rubble, the rescue dogs, the children, even the stones in Trinity’s churchyard.
“All the world’s religions encourage us to forgive those who have hurt us, to do good to those who hate us, and to pray for those who abuse us. Christians recall Jesus’ admonition to love our enemies. Jews cling to the practice of shalom. Muslims rely upon Allah, the most compassionate and the most merciful, to guide their relationships with others. In the aftermath of the tragedy, leaders from all spiritual traditions have condemned the violence, pointing out that no cause justifies such immoral acts.

“After searching our souls, we have found ourselves drawn back to the spiritual practices of compassion, connections, and unity conveyed so beautifully in Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh’s classic poem ‘Please Call Me by My True Names.’ This is known as an ‘I Am’ poem.”

On 9/11, the Brussats wrote: “We pray for the victims and those who are trying to help them. We pray for the dead, may they rest in peace, and their families and friends, may they know peace. We pray for those seeking to learn who was behind these attacks, may they be clear-headed and thorough. We pray for our government leaders, may they have the wisdom to handle this crisis without contributing to further violence. We pray for the people of the world, may we learn what needs to be learned from these overwhelming events, and may we respond to them in the best way possible with the help of the One who sustains us all.”

“Rest in Peace” has also been used at many private memorials, religious services, and large interfaith gatherings, including one in London and another in Union Square, New York.

© 2001 by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat. All rights reserved. Used here by permission.

Photo by The New York City Police Department

 

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