Bikeman

BIKEMAN

FOREWORD BY DAN RATHER

On a walk through New York not long ago, I saw a parked car wearing two of those ribbon magnets that have become so common in recent years. Instead of the more common "Support the Troops," though, one ribbon bore the message "9-11"; the other, "Survivor."

In the nation at large, the visceral memories of September 11, 2001, have largely been replaced with symbolic representations of patriotism, sacrifice, and mourning. But here in the city where the towers once stood, although the memories have faded—as memories will—the rawness of direct experience remains at their core. New Yorkers do not remember that day as a collection of television and newsmagazine images. What we revisit in the theater of our minds are scenes recorded by our own eyes and ears. We saw, we heard, and, yes, we smelled and breathed the smoke and dust firsthand.

There is a sense in which all of us who were in New York on that day the towers fell could be considered—and consider ourselves—survivors. The immediacy and accuracy of that feeling of having survived spreads in concentric circles from the point that, almost from the start, became known as Ground Zero. My own experience of that day played out on the far edges of an outer circle: An Upper East Side morning view of distant, smoldering towers; a series of phone calls; a quick trip across and downtown to a television news studio where I spent the next fourteen hours conveying what I could of what was happening in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania to a nation shocked and saddened.

Throughout the day, my perch in the newsroom afforded me terrifying and bewildering views of what lay at the center of it all. They were views mediated by video cameras, microphones, and distance, but they carried a near-knockout force nonetheless. One on the periphery could only imagine the experience of those caught in the inner circles of that day. Imagine, and feel the shudder of fury and helplessness.

Tom Flynn, who worked with me then as a writer for CBS News, found himself pulled into the deepest rings of that hell, lured there by the reporter's instinct and urge to bear witness. What he found when he arrived was an inferno on high—and then the terrible descent of persons and of buildings, of every and all, the darkness and chaos of a midday night.

Later in the day, when he made it uptown, he told some of his story to me on the air. The raw emotion in his voice was as real, as tangible as the dust still entangled in his hair, still smudged on his face. What Tom has set down here are the reports of the journalist as poet, or poet as journalist. The two are not so far apart as some may think, nor are the experiences limned in our cultural touchstones so far removed from our contemporary headlines. These dispatches in verse tell the story of a journey into a modern underworld, and of the escape that made it possible to tell the tale. Here is a survivor's lament, related by one who "did not live through it" but "just did not die." Here is what remains in one man of what has become, for so many and despite the passage of years, that "forever September morning." It is a harrowing document of what crumbles without and within, one that reverberates well after the reading.

Dan Rather
New York City
November 2007

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BIKEMAN, AN EPIC POEM

By: Thomas F. Flynn
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC
ISBN: 978-0-7407-7559-8
Format: Hardcover | 7 x 9 in. | 96 pages
Price: $12.99 ($14.50 Canada)

Publicity contact: Kathy Hilliard, 816-932-6741, khilliard@amuniversal.com

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