Monday, September 8, 2014

Charles Rammelkamp


When I cleaned out my office
the week I retired,
I tossed the Emergency Preparedness
calendar onto the heap
I wouldn't be taking home:
office memos, user manuals, certificates,
notebooks full of meeting notes, project plans.

Just June, the calendar was good
for another half year and full
of tips for responding to hurricanes,
extreme heat, flooding, flu, tornadoes,
fire safety and sheltering in place,
even East Coast earthquakes—
but nothing about a terrorist attack,
which used to figure so prominently,
along with anthrax, smallpox, sarin,
in the aftermath of al-Qaeda, the Towers,
the tragedy that spawned a decade
of pointless Middle East wars,
maimed veterans, PTSD,

and I still remember the panic
of my colleague Sandra
during a routine fire drill
only weeks after the attack;
she'd lost a friend at the Pentagon,
and here she was, screaming, crying,
having to be subdued by the nurse.
It was so funny I wanted to cry.

Charles reads "911":

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Charles confesses: "On September 11, 2001, I was working for the Social Security Administration. Minutes after the airplanes hit the World Trade Center towers, we were all glued to the TV monitors watching the news. Since it is a federal site, many felt particularly vulnerable, and we were all dismissed shortly. I went to collect my children from their middle school, which was on lockdown. I had to present ID."

CHARLES RAMMELKAMP lives in Baltimore. His latest book, Fusen Bakudan ("Balloon Bombs" in Japanese), was published in 2012 by Time Being Books. It’s a collection of monologues involving missionaries in a leper colony in Vietnam during the war. Charles edits an online literary journal called The Potomac.

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