Sept 11 One Kind Word: a poem and the start of a journey

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was in New York City giving an investment presentation to the executive team at Monster Worldwide.

Within a few minutes of starting that pitch, the 70 year-old Chairman Andy McKelvey was abruptly pulled out of the meeting by his assistant. We all looked at each other wondering what was going on. Some execs rolled their eyes and whispered to each other, chuckling and thinking the old guy was up to no good.

Then a crescendo of anxiety quickly rose as rumors of a small plane hitting the World Trade Center escalated into stories about one tower being on fire. Many of us left the conference room and went to the south side of the buidling.

We stood in a magnificent corporate office, 40 stories in the air, providing a clear view of the World Trade Center south of us. The towers were in fact on fire.

We stood mute, watching in disbelief. Then gasped and shook as each tower crashed before our eyes. There wasn’t a scream among us. Just a sudden gasp, hand covered mouth, eyes watering, quiet sobbing.

I remember trembling that only a week earlier, I had been in the south tower that now crumbled before my eyes, killing thousands as it collapsed. As my tears rolled down, I said a prayer of gratitude that I was a spectator and not a victim.

The city was eerily quiet that afternoon. I walked south to volunteer and turned around again and headed north. I did that at least ten times. Unsure of whether I could be of any help or if I should get home to be with my family. Torn. Guilty. Indecisive. Confused.

I went back to the office. I tried to rent a car to go home, but they were reserved for emergency personnel. All flights had been grounded. I headed to Union Station to try to get a train and found the station jammed with thousands of other would-be rail travelers. I had to leave my bags behind in that station so that I could squeeze into the last train out. It was a stinking, sweltering standing room only ride to Philadelphia. The next day I was on Amtrak headed across the country to Seattle.

On the week-long ride home, I had time to reflect on this experience and wrote a poem. Every year, I re-read this poem again. I feel the same now as I did then. The victims of 9-11 will not have died in vain if we learn to love fully. Those of us who did not die on 9-11 have received the gift of life. Every moment we breathe and see and hear is an opportunity to build a better world.  It isn’t in the hands of our generals, presidents, or prime ministers. The opportunity and the responsibility to build a better world is in our hands.

One kind word by  Michael Schutzler 9/11/2001

In one instant, all we knew

Assumed, hoped, or dreamed

Had collapsed.

So many aspirations, adulations, ruminations

And hard won stations

Washed away in a sea of fire,

Concrete and steel,

Dust and tears.

Haunting cries of electric armbands in the darkness

Screeching, shrill alarms

Sole witness and testimony

To heroes lost.

Twin towers of Babel

Monuments to the one language

That cowers humanity;

Mighty fortress,

Brought down with blood of innocents;

Pride bedashed lying at our feet;

Stench of smoldering death

Draped on a late summer breeze.

Ten thousand eyes burned dry for life;

Ten thousand hands scraped raw moving rocks in vain;

Ten thousand hearts broken searching in the rain.

Cries of vengeance! Calls for revenge!

Tip-tip like rain on a thin glass roof;

The question WHY bursts in

Desperate, choking, breathless despair.

But the soul of the world knows

What is softly whispered in the quiet corners

Of our solitude:

Violence sown is violence reaped.

Oh the mother of hatred is an empty belly;

And her husband is neglect.

Yet one act of kindness

Born of humility,

Propelled by faith,

Marks the end of suffering.

The time to act is a twinkling;

A challenge that flickers,

Fleeting and swift.

It is our chance to reply

With one kind word,

Or help lift one burden,

Or ask forgiveness,

Or offer thanks.

Our moment is at hand!

Don’t waste it.

Say one kind word;

So it might flourish and grow.

Hurry!

For in an instant, all you know,

Assume, hope, or dream,

May collapse

Leaving orphaned intentions

To wander in the caverns

Of broken hearts.

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9 Responses to “Sept 11 One Kind Word: a poem and the start of a journey”

  1. Michele Pearl says:

    Beautiful, and very, very true Michael. Hope you’re well, my friend!
    Michele

  2. Sharon Burkey Biddle says:

    Mike,
    What a beautiful poem. I also have unresolved feelings about that fateful day. I was in the Pentagon when it was hit. My kids don’t have very many memories about the day, so they also don’t understand how I become emotional on each anniversary.
    Sharon

  3. Heidi Schutzler says:

    My son, how proud I am of a wonderfully sensitive man like you. The world would be a much better place if there were more like you.
    The special boy, who meant so much to his mother, became a special man indeed.

    Love Mutti

  4. Ruchit says:

    Thank you Mike for sharing this. I was in college and was in India those days and one day morning I saw morning newspaper with Black background and white big fonts…it was 9/12

  5. Peter Schutzler says:

    Michael, my brother, I recall that day with such clarity and remember getting you at the train station in Philly. The thoughts I had were of complete joy that you were a witness but not a casualty. Mother Teresa often said the simplest and also most powerful tool we have is the kind word. You expressed that so well here and I will cherish what you have written.

    Your brother,

    Pitt

  6. K. Nakao says:

    Thank you for sharing your reflection. I agree that our response is in our own hands as individuals and should be driven by love and appreciation and not anger and vengeance.

  7. yes, i am sure abou the source – it’s me! I was there.

  8. Heidi Schutzler says:

    I read it when you first shared with me 10 years a go and I still am in awe that you are my son that is that talented and caring. I love you with all my heart.

  9. Sandy Gould says:

    Beautful words from a most amazing man! I feel what I felt seeing back in time though your words…such deep dark loss and such love and will for us to overcome this aspect of our world and connect in a greater meaning…together.
    thanks M.

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