A Poem by Dr. Barry Lubetkin
Twenty years have passed, yet feel like months,
And still sear my gut and traumatize my brain,
And wreck my sleep and intrude upon my memory,
And cause the pandemic to feel like an impersonal tumbleweed.
Because no one can share the hollow feeling, the surreal landscape,
The barren streets, the smell of death dust.
As I walk away from where the Twin Towers had fallen two days earlier .
The Red Cross jacket feeling heavy and unprotective.
I counted. I gave out 100 teddy bears to the workers at The Pile,
As they headed indoors–struggling. exhausted–for respite and food.
“I don’t have a kid,“ one of them says to me. “A niece? A nephew?" I implored.
"Please take one.”
They wash their hands of human lives. I weep privately.
I dine with them. I reach for a barbecue rib.
I offer some to the construction guy next to me.
“I found enough of them out there,“ he points and pushes the plate back to me.
I feel sick and dizzy and swallow my own vomit.
They told me I could come outside to see the flames, still angry.
They put a helmet on my head but no mask. I watched and took deep breaths.
And drew into my lungs what they had washed off their hands,
And later, much, much later, I became ill.
Barry Lubetkin, Ph.D. is the co-director and co-founder of the Institute for Behavior Therapy in New York City. The Institute for Behavior Therapy is the oldest private cognitive behavior center in the United States.