Analysis of “After the Terror” by Jay Parini

708 words | 3 page(s)

9/11 changed the world. Most specifically, the events on the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001, sent America into collective grief. It also created stark terror for individuals. While America had experienced massive trauma at the Oklahoma City Bombing, it still believed that terrorism would not happen on home soil. America felt safe and Americans confused this feeling with reality. However, Americans continued with their daily lives. On 9/11 Americans were shocked, horrified and glued to their televisions for news. On 9/12, Americans woke up, got dressed and went to work. America needed to continue. In Jay Parini’s poem, “After the Terror,” the poet captures this aspect of how America changed and yet, remained the same. The recent Boston Marathon Bombing reinforced this. No one noticed or reported that someone had dropped a backpack.

In Parini’s poem, the poet uses repetition to express the importance of change that did not actually affect people. The changes that occurred after 9/11 were not welcome changes. Security increased. Individuals feared going to crowded places. Intolerance increased. Individuals distrusted many individuals. However, Americans also expressed the belief that they felt more connected to their neighbors in the aftermath. There was a strong desire to return to normalcy; however, the country was numb from shock and fear (Morgan, Wisneski, and Skitka 447-48).

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Parini understands this and expresses it in his poem. He states that “Everything has changed, though nothing has.” This line is repeated throughout the poem. In has several implications. First, Americans did need to return to their lives after 9/11. The day and its aftermath were beyond tragic; however, life does not cease for those who survived tragedy. The line may also be interpreted concerning America’s naiveté. In reality, America was not any safer on 9/10 as she was on 9/11. Anyone who failed to realize that America was not indestructible did not recognize the reality of the world. Newscasters discuss terror attacks and bombings around the world repeatedly. What made America think that she could not be touched? There was a pleasant and enjoyable sense of innocence before 9/11. However, it was an illusion. Everything changed because Americans now recognized their vulnerability. Nothing changed because America was vulnerable before 9/11.

In the second stanza, he points out that America must return to business. One week after 9/11, the stock bell was rung out loud, a symbolism of American economic strength and resilience. However, the World Trade Center stood in the heart of the financial district of New York City. Many in the financial district were killed. America needed to reopen the business district of NYC. However, was anyone still alive to run it? Thousands were killed. Now, there was an emptiness.

Parini repeatedly points out that “the windows have been bolted just in case.” This line also may have several meanings. Perhaps he refers to the increased security after 9/11. Everything is fine and safe, Americans were told. However, the security was increased “just in case.” The government wanted Americans to return to the safe feeling her citizens enjoyed before 9/11. However, that safe feeling may require additional security layers. The line may also be interpreted as an even more tragic message. As those working in the skyscrapers huddle by the window, one needs to wonder what they are looking for. Individuals worried that a horrific tragedy may befall them at work. One of the most tragic scenes on 9/11 were the countless individuals who jumped to their deaths from the WTC. They preferred to die by jumping rather than die in the inferno of the Towers. Those in charge need to bolt the windows “just in case.” They want the workers to feel safe; however, in the event of a tragedy, they did not want individuals to create another tragic image for Americans to witness.

Parini’s poem uses repetitive simplicity to express the issues confronting America post 9/11. It states the obvious about America. America was vulnerable before the attacks; nothing changed on 9/11 except the awareness of American vulnerability. However, things would return to normal, with the exception of the precautions necessary for the next terrorist attack.

  • Morgan, G. Scott, Wisneski, Daniel C., and Skitka, Linda J. “The Expulsion from Disneyland: The Social Psychological Impact of 9/11.” American Psychologist 66 (2011, September): 447-54.
  • Parini, Jay. “After the Terror.” 2003. 30 April 2013. http://www.poetryfoundation.org

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