September Scramble

February 19, 2017

for Major Heather Penny


The word was

it would be an easy day.


The President got his brief with coffee.

Some fruit went uneaten.


 Curtains were drawn

 to send in the early morning.


“Sun already high in the sky,”

Captain said to her


As she left the staff room and came onto

the airfield for briefings.


“What d’we got today, captain?” she asked.



Then, the day began to unfold like this:

  • A plane has crashed into the World Trade Center.

  • A prop plane has been flown into the World Trade Center.

  • There is smoke and fire and death. Stand at attention.

  • We stood at attention.


The next strike many of us saw live:

  • A harbinger through the city-scape.

  • The Falling Man.

  • The fall of men.

  • The start of fall.


Then the Pentagon.



Clogged Lines.

The reports.


Here’s where collective memory ends;

where lives and minds scatter and lines get tied up forever.


A group of middle schoolers huddling

in the recess shade before their principal.


They are never this quiet.



United 93 was still in the sky.

Calls were made.


This is how her day began to unfold:

  • You will get into this F-16 and take 93 out of the sky.

  • We don’t have time to arm.

  • You will be unarmed.

  • You will do it anyway.


 I will, proudly.

  • She does her routine checks,

  • Is told there are no checks today,

  • That fighter is to be ripping the sky down stat.

  • So she tears up the sky.


 Don’t fuck this up.

  • She nearly breaks the sound barrier.

  • She shreds birds and clouds.

  • She blazes through to a kamikaze end.

  • This is the way to firmament.


  Every other plane is setting to ground.

  • She maneuvers through.

  • There will be none in the hushed sky

  • After this.

  • A jetless September.


  Her radar is showing the blip.

  • She thinks, maybe, for a moment of the eject button

  • And family and love and God and glory

  • But none of these will to push her through that cockpit 

  • And into gaseous combustion any faster


Somewhere in that pinpoint precision

the report cuts in her headset.


15 years later,

she gives an interview. 



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