Today so many of us remember where we were 20 years ago. Those of us not in NYC, or Arlington, Virginia or a field in Pennsylvania glued to our TVs or radios. I couldn’t seem to get out of my car in front of my Austin office at Antone’s Records. Not the kind of “driveway moment” NPR is famous for. Old school desktops wouldn’t load CNN. For good or bad, we couldn’t watch the destruction in real time. Our boss, shaken, “OK, back to work.” Really? There is no back to work. There is no, back to anything. That afternoon, or was it evening, members of our US Congress emerged onto the Capital steps. What I remember is them, all of them, holding hands and singing, “God Bless America.”
We live in divided times. We lived in divided times. Less than a year earlier throngs of news media camped out (literally) outside Austin’s Governor’s mansion awaiting the results of the contested 2000 Gore vs Bush election. Hanging Chads and all. Democrats and Republics were not BFFs. Some felt, perhaps, an election had been stolen. All that to say, the sight, the sound of our leaders, dropping their weapons and singing oursong – together. THAT sticks to me.
The next day, with that scene in my head, this song poured out of me. A few weeks later I recorded it with Matt Hubbard at Willie Nelson’s Pedernales studio. And later that year, recording another version with Austin producers Chris Gage and Christine Albert, roping in my Antone’s Records buddy, the incredible Miss Lavelle White.
I am one of the fortunate not to have lost a loved one on 9/11/01. I ache for my fellow citizens. Their names are being read today from a podium by those left behind. A little girl knights an uncle she never met, as her guardian angel. I am yet again glued to the images coming from lower Manhattan this morning, and the gravel of Bruce Springsteen singing “For death is not the end. I’ll see you in my dreams.” Thank you, Bruce. Clintons, Obamas, Bidens, firefighters, police, standing in silence with the rest of us, all of America surrounding them. (And the Bush family in Shanksville) All of us. Together.
I share in the collective trauma of our country. Writing is my avenue to get out the feels. “On the Day (September 11, 2001)” is my grieving and honoring space. It’s been played and sung in classrooms, universities, community memorials over the years to offer a reflective space.
However you grieve, or honor, or mark this day, those moments… However you find solace, bring peace, reflect, and conjure spiritual recovery… May you do so.