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This is a poem I wrote in September of 2001 as a response to the attacks on our country. Never forget. september-11-2001-1


On the last day of life as we knew it
Madness rained down from the sky
Horror took over our lives
The heavens let out a great cry

Mountains of glass and of metal
Once towered so proudly, so grand
Watching over a glorious city
Monuments to our great land

In one moment of terrible evil
The earth shattered, blow after blow
Now a skeleton teeters above
The abyss gapes madly below

Paeans to hope and to dreams
Lie mangled and so cruelly lost
Shrouded in blankets of ashes and dust
At such an unthinkable cost

Our hearts are burning and tortured
Our souls fill with torment and pain
The ache is so vast and unyielding
A kingdom where anguish now reigns

Life upon life upon life now gone
So suddenly, cruelly no more
We cry out in anger in fear and in rage
Our beings shake to the core

Our tears flow freely in torrents
Transform into rivers of pain
Wash over our land in the knowledge
That what was will never be again

But we see the heroes among us
Who emerge from the darkness so bleak
They light the way to find healing
And deliver the pride that we seek

For we are the steel
Though twisted and bent
And smoldering in the ruins
Our wills are of iron
Our souls filled with pain
No bandage can cover the wounds

But breath shall once again lift us
Like the Phoenix, we too shall rise
As we grasp onto our precious memories
Of our dear ones and silent goodbyes

Let our spirits lift up now in chorus
Let our voices reach to the heavens above
Let us be one nation united
Instead of breaking, we will heal now through love

Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved


The New Normal

rose I lost my mom last week. I write these words knowing this is true, but finding it to be unbearably impossible to believe them. My mom was full of life, active, followed a healthy lifestyle, and up until about two months ago, losing her wasn’t even on our radar. Unfortunately, by the time we all realized she was sick, it turned out that it was already too late. But up until a day or two before we lost her, I still believed she could rally, fight it, and stay with us for at least a few more months.

This new normal means that I am a motherless child. There is no one to be my unwavering cheerleader. Or my no-nonsense critic. Mom had high standards, and the way to earn praise was to live up to them. As I said in my eulogy:

She was proud of all of our achievements, but you had to earn that pride. And that was fine, because it made us want to excel and be the best, for her. Because we knew when she told us she was proud of us, it wasn’t empty words. She meant it. And we had earned it.

My mom taught my sister and me about charity and compassion and honesty and living a righteous life. Although in years, she might be considered old, no one who knew her would describe her that way. She not only danced, exercised every day, and was the first to help others, but she audited college classes and continued going to see shows, always enjoying her trips into Manhattan.

My mom gave me a love of literature, culture, and reading. Conversations revolved around world events, the theater, and interesting things in the news that we could share with each other.

Her illness came upon her so suddenly and with such ferocity, that none of us was prepared for this. Not that you can prepare for losing your mom. There will never be anyone else who knows you the way she does, who would lay down her life for you, or who will stand by your side even when you push her away.

Nothing can prepare you for having to choose your mom’s coffin. Or to speak at her funeral. Or to hear the thud of the shovels dropping dirt on her casket at the cemetery as you say your last goodbye.

I am aware that we were lucky to have our mom with us for as long as we did. So many of my friends lost their moms years ago. And I’ve been asking them how you find your way in this surreal new existence. But everyone has their own path to travel, and there is no road map for this journey.

But as one of my friends said, losing your mom is primal. The hole in my heart is always going to be there. The desire to pick up the phone and call her to tell her of something funny, or something that would make her proud isn’t going to go away. The hope of getting some kind of sign from her that she’s doing OK now is overwhelming.

As you might have noticed, I still can’t bring myself to say the “D” word. In some ways, I’m still stuck in the hospital a few weeks ago, with the nurses trying to tell me the reality that I wasn’t ready to hear. I’m still not ready to hear it. But I’m grateful I got to see my mom and tell her how much I love her. And have her tell me the same. I just wish she could tell me how I’m supposed to go on in this strange, new normal.


Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved

HONOR (re-post from September 10, 2011)

rememberWill you leave this world a better place? That is a question we should ask ourselves on a daily basis. But particularly today, on the 10-year anniversary of the day that shattered the world that was. Yes, our world has changed drastically since that awful day and we can never go back to where we were on September 10th of 2001. But the question is, have we actually changed?

Do we work to make this world better than we found it? Or do we consistently give in to petty differences, envy, frustration and avarice? It’s a pretty scary world these days on many fronts. We have been off-balance since 9/11, never on a steady footing. And the economy has made it impossible for anyone to feel secure about anything these days. But when you listen to the survivors of that terrible day, those who wonder why they were chosen to live when so many died, to a person they say that they are looking for their purpose in life, the reason they are still here. And they know that part of that purpose is to make this world a better place.

So, how do we do that? Certainly not by the travesty we have seen in our Congress with nonsensical infighting and name-calling, better suited for an elementary-school playground than among leaders bestowed with the privilege of representing the people of our great nation. They need to set the example for us, to show us how to rise above our differences and realize that we all have the same goals, even if we have different ideas of how to achieve them. How do we teach our children these life lessons, if all they see are adults choosing infantile behavior over the mature examples of compromise and civility?

As individuals, we need to cherish each day we are given, since no one is guaranteed tomorrow. We need to look at each day as a gift, which it is, and try to do what we can to, at the very least, not add to the burdens of our fellow travelers, and if possible, ease those burdens the best we can. To bring a smile to someone sorely in need of cheer. To give a hug to someone who feels alone in the world. To forgive not only others, but also forgive ourselves our failings and strive to do our best.

We live in a wonderful country, filled with amazing people and we need to remember that. The events of 9/11 should be a reason to reflect and honor both those who died, and those who survived. We must never forget. And by living lives of honor and compassion, we will ensure that we will make our world a better place than we found it, not only for us, but for generations to come. Let’s roll.


Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved