Setting the Inner Compass: 9/11/2001

Reading poetry is one of the ways some of us nourish our faith, a way we set or reset our inner compass and stay focused on the big picture, on the spiritual journey. I know that is true for me. In this monthly column, ‘Setting the Inner Compass’ I share some of the poems I find nourishing to the soul. This column is a little different. I am sharing one of my poems, a poem written in 2021 in New York on September 11th. Like many others who were in NYC on that day in 2001, the events and loss I witnessed that day have stayed with me and always will.

This poem is about a place where I always found peace and how that place ministered to me in the midst of the trauma of that day. I share it and invite you to remember your experience on 9/11/2001 and ponder where are the places in your life that minister to you during times of sadness, trauma, and tragedy.



“9/11/2001 Turtle Pond” by Dave Brown

I was laying down on the grass
in Central Park near turtle pond,
a familiar place of rest and comfort.

I sat up again and again and looked south
at the smoke covered lower Manhattan
where the towers once stood.

Sirens echoed, as I sat under
blue skies on green grass in the afternoon,
September 11, 2001.

Hours earlier in Rockefeller Center
with a good cup of coffee in my hand
under the same blue sky

I leaned against a wall and
watched them broadcast
TODAY in the plaza.

Katie Couric spoke,
“This just in, there is a report that
a plane just hit…”

She was hustled inside as I
went with others to Fifth Avenue.
We looked south.

The smoke came out of the giant hole
made in the north tower. We looked and saw
smoke come as well from the south tower.

We watched. I left Fifth avenue
and wandered looking for a TV trying
to understand what I would never understand.

Sirens echoed.
People were afraid.
I was afraid.

Smoke covered lower Manhattan. I slowly began
to comprehend the incomprehensible:
the loss of life we witnessed. I cried.

I wandered some more
and was drawn to the park,
the green grass and the pond.

I always found peace there.
But that day it was different,
As turtles floated in the pond

sirens blared and smoke
was in the southern sky.
Upheaval, death, and loss,

life changed that day
even as the green grass
of that familiar field

by the turtles gave me
a place for a brief moment
to be and be at home.


“9/11/2001 Turtle Pond” by Dave Brown is used with the permission of the poet and from his collection of poems: I Don’t Usually but…

Rev. Dave Brown is a writer, poet, and the creator/host of Blues Vespers. He serves on the PCUSA Self Development of People Education national committee and the PCUSA Education Roundtable. Dave is the former pastor of Immanuel Presbyterian Church, Tacoma WA. ([email protected]).

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