She knows full-well about the forty-
three seconds of separation
between hero and the he’s-only-
human fireman who stopped
to phone home honey and child,
to the wife on route to the Twin
Towers. She’s measured the forty-
three seconds of distance
between fact and fiction, the over-
loaded length of his last cellular
call with the sirens of the hook and ladder
silenced one mile due north of Ground
Zero. She’s still carrying the forty-fuckin’-
three-second weight of omission
or suppression or deletion. Pick one.
No dereliction-of-duty business, girly?
The guy paid the big price, right? Change
the clock compassionately for NYFD’s sake. It’s 9/
11, Legends cannot afford the detail.
Author’s Comment: “Untarnished” is based on a true story of a reporter who covered 9/11, during which she uncovered the fact that one responding fire truck stopped on route to the Twin Towers — they willfully delayed their arrival against protocol and the urgent situation to selfishly, some would say, call their loved ones. The reporter decided not to blow their cover in her stories of the tragic event she witnessed firsthand. Today, she’s still agonizing about that judgment call, one that went against journalism ethics but arose out of compassion. Thus she helped preserve intact those firefighters’ reputation as stainless heroes.