By C. Leuch <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: September, 2001
Summary: One FoLC's personal and poignant reflections on the tragic events of September 11th. Be advised that this story explores the events of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in some detail.
I won't lie and try to say that this is based on an original idea. This is my attempt to deal with the grief and shock brought on by the terrorist attacks on the United States of America on September 11, 2001. The characters are the property of DC Comics, and the situation, however terrible it is, is real.
Superman stood at the top of the tallest remaining building in Metropolis,gazing out over the now calm Metropolis skyline, and staring at the place where the Metropolis Trade Towers once stood. Days had passed since the terrorist attack on the city, but it felt like an eternity to him. A lifetime's worth of grief and pain tortured his conscience, and he knew that he would be haunted for the rest of the days by the sights he had seen.
Indeed, America herself would never be the same again, a shred of her remaining innocence slipping quietly away like so many wisps of smoke. As hard as he tried to blame himself for the massive loss of life, he knew that it was ultimately not his fault. He had worked his utmost from the very second the disaster had struck, nearly wearing himself out in the process.
Terrorists from foreign lands were to blame, although Clark couldn't image what perceived gain they thought they were getting by committing such an act. No political agenda was worth the thousands of lives, no religious idealism was worth the blood shed, yet history had proven over and over again that radicals would always be willing to invoke terror on those with different beliefs.
His long day had started innocently enough. He had come to work with his wife as he did every other morning, quietly slipping into the newsroom and working on the stories of the day. Less than an hour after getting in, though, a low flying aircraft had rumbled over the top of the Planet building, the shock waves causing the light fixtures to shake and the windows to rattle. He had immediately gotten up from his desk to see what was wrong, but he had gotten only a few steps when the ground trembled with the force of a massive explosion. His sensitive ears had picked up the screams of thousands of people, and he knew right away that something terrible had happened.
Taking to the skies, he immediately saw that the disaster was worse than he first thought. The plane that had buzzed the city had crashed directlyinto the upper part of one of the Metropolis Trade Towers, leaving a gaping hole in the building. Black smoke billowed out, the result of the jet fuel catching fire. Over a dozen floors had been directly impacted by the crash, and even from as far away as the Daily Planet, Clark's sensitive nose could pick up the smell of burning flesh.
Drawing all the inner reserves that he could, Clark rushed to the scene and immediately started pulling people out of the wreckage. He gathered as many workers as he could at a time and took them down to the ground in large armfuls, depositing them and the ambulances, which had started arriving almost immediately.
Even as fast as he worked, however, it wasn't fast enough to get to everyone. In their desperation, people started jumping from windows, falling to the ground from heights that no living person could ever hope to survive. Clark poured on yet more speed, blindly scooping up everyone he could find, flying through the thick smoke and debris over and over and over again.
It was during one of those flights that he heard it, the sound of a jet engine that was much closer than it should've been. His arms had been loaded with injured people as he had finally seen it, a passenger jet headed straight for the second tower. He flew as fast as he possibly could without injuring his passengers, but in the end, all he could do was watch as the aircraft impacted the side of the building in a large ball of fire.
He let out a sob, not caring who saw. In the few short minutes that he had already been on the scene, he had already seen more death that he ever would've thought possible. In his wildest dreams he had never imagined that such a thing could happen in this city, under his watch. He no longer cared that Superman, the man who supposedly showed no emotion, was openly showing his horror. In the grand scheme of things, maintaining his facade was of little importance when faced with the tragedy in front of him.
Clark took a deep breath and blindly flew into action again, trying to do as he had done before, and trying to steel his mind from the sights he saw. It hadn't occurred to him to do anything to repair the structurally weakened buildings, all he could think about was saving as many lives as possible.
Hour after hour went by, an infinite number of victims coming forth to ask his help. His initial shock and sadness morphed into anger and frustration.
He could hear the journalists at the foot of the tower, he could hear as their home office briefed them on the state of affairs throughout the country. All the work that he had done, all the criminals he had arrested and the hope it had brought to the city and to the nation didn't mean anything, not in the face of these attacks. And all his powers couldn't save the people in Pittsburgh and Washington, and God knew where else the terrorists had struck.
And, ultimately, he hadn't been able to save Metropolis from losing one of its symbols. One by one, the towers had collapsed. Despite his best efforts, Superman couldn't stop the landslide of debris, he couldn't stop the choking cloud of smoke. People who he had just rescued had watched from thestreets below, and they had died in a pile of steel and concrete. All he could feel was despair as he unburied them some time later, after the fires finally stopped. So many lives lost, so very many lives uselessly thrown away in one cowardly act. Uncovering the bodies, he found himself recognizing professional acquaintances and friends, men and women who had families and home, who would never live to see another sunrise.
Far after the sun had gone down and the rescue workers had grown tired, Superman had labored, driven by the dull ache of guilt he felt. I had taken days to free all the people and find all the bodies, to clear the debris off the streets and make the city livable once more. It was said that time healed all wounds, but Superman couldn't escape the fact that his emotional wounds were still very raw. And so he stood now, surveying a city that had changed, a world that had changed.
Maybe the United States was arrogant to think that in was invulnerable to attack. In a country that so valued its freedoms, it had never occurred to it that there were those that resented them for those very things. Maybe the people did know the risks of possible terrorism but just chose to ignore them, choosing instead to live their lives free of seemingly baseless worry.
But no longer. The greatest nation in the world had fallen victim to a seemingly faceless foe, and Superman hadn't been of any use in stopping them. For all he could, all the powers he had, the loss of life had been stunning.
But not all was lost, he thought as he zoomed in more closely. Out of all tragedies came the beauty of the human spirit, and here more than anywhere, this was proving to be true. Volunteers worked hand in hand with paid rescue workers, doing their best to try and save those around them. Private citizens lined up to donate blood to their fallen comrades, and the wealthy gave supplies and money. Public officials worked in their offices for hours above and beyond what they were paid for, trying to make the city safe and livable once again. Life went on, no matter what happened. Around the devastated city, around the mourning country, life went on, and there would be happiness once again some day.
With a sad intake of breath, the man of steel took to the skies once again, this time bound for a small brownstone far away from the devastation. A light in the window of the master bedroom beckoned to him, signaling that his wife, his support, his life was there, waiting for him. As he landed,he saw her look at him with such understanding and sympathy, it made his heart break. Of anyone on this planet, she knew how hard it had been for him to see everything that he had seen. She had known his helplessness and his anger, and he had no doubt that she felt them, too.
He took a couple long strides across the room and into her waiting arms, embracing her with his mind and body. He knew that he was filthy from days of work, but he also knew that she didn't care. They needed that contact, that reassurance that everything would be all right. And, for the first time, he was positive that everything would be fine, after all. A part of the country's spirit had been stolen away, but for now, his was recharged, and he could forget the scenes that, ultimately, nobody would ever forget, nor should they.
The preceding story is dedicated to the memory of all those who lost their lives in the attack in New York City, Washington DC, and Pennsylvania. In a time when a Superman was needed, the brave men and women of the United States stepped up and took the role on themselves, many of them losing their lives in the process. For that dedication, we are all truly grateful. As said on the show, "A world full of heroes has nothing to fear."