The 343

Written to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the dreadful events known as Nine Eleven. This poem is a tribute to one group who paid dearly for the brutal realities of that day – the serving firemen of New York City.



There are three hundred and forty three words

In this poem – one for each New York fireman,

Who answered the call and rushed to their deaths,

Bravely, on that terrible clear day of nine eleven.


A morning like most others, shifts coming off and on;

Hopes, fears, plans, dreams, bills, ills, and thrills.

Tough, macho, brazened bonds of bullish brotherhood;

Proud rivalries and confidence in their fighting skills.


A fire like no other – high and awful, hell above,

But no heaven below: no time to ask what or why;

No chance to vomit at an act so obscene;

Only a second to wonder – is this the day I die?


Surreal cityscape – look before you cross the road.

There’s no danger of being run over in this street…

But human missiles are screaming down from above…

What searing horror up there is forcing folk to leap?


In through the doors – goodbye daylight, goodbye sky.

On into the concrete stair wells leading up to…?

God knows what. God? Are you in here too?

Is this whole nightmare all because of you?


People stumbling down, and angels climbing up;

Everything is upside down in this evil cage.

Ascending with steely purpose to save lives;

A huge hopeless hope mixed with rising rage.


Garbled messages, incomplete communications;

Do what you can, alone together on this twisted stair.

Carry the injured down? Go further up? What’s that?

Evacuate? Get out now? No point in remaining there.


Blood, heat, limbs, smoke, screams – sights

That would imprint a lifetime’s worth of grieves,

If you were fated to have one – your story

Stolen and rewritten by vile furtive thieves.


We outside can only hope death came quick;

All senses snuffed by that dreadful deadly pace.

One moment: pain, strain, noise, heat and hell;

The next: breathe easy, release, peace and grace.


Your bravery magnified because you were ‘just doing your job’.

Your efforts this day will stand contrasted with the viciousness

Of men whose dedication to kill, maim and destroy,

All for a ‘god’ made in their own image and likeness.