So much has been said and written about the events of September 11, 2001 — perhaps too many words, and too little silence. And I certainly don’t have any fresh inspiration or hopefulness to “frame” that event any differently than I’ve tried to do before, and even then, only haltingly. When I dare to write about such things — much as I pray, when I remember to pray — I do so from my poverty and need to share my struggles to understand and respond to the events of our times with the help of others. Chief among these “others” who have helped me along the way are the poets and artists.
The best of these remind me that there is no cheap grace, no easy purification of historical trauma such as our nation and so many people suffered on that day — nor of the centrifugal violence and war-making that followed for the peoples of Iraq and Afghanistan, the latter war still being waged, and waged, and waged, its human costs spiraling outward like an unforgiving hurricane.
Yet the artist dares to bridge the present paralysis of what is with some vision of what is yet possible.
Link here for my remembrance of 9/11 published on the 10th anniversary, six years ago, through the lens of Bruce Springsteen’s album “The Rising.” And here for my more personal recollections published last year, on the 15th anniversary, from my vantage point as a parent. And here for a wonderful retrospective by Patrick Garvin, published yesterday, on Springsteen’s “My City of Ruins,” a song that takes pride of place in my own reflections.
If you haven’t heard “My City of Ruins,” I’ll link below to Springsteen performing the song in a 9/11 tribute, just days after the events, followed by an electrifying cover by Eddie Vedder in 2009 when Springsteen was honored at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. I’ll follow Vedder’s performance – because I can’t resist – with Sting’s cover of “The Rising” at the same event in DC. Magnificent.
The choirs backing Springsteen, Vedder, and Sting in each of these performances seem to me like the prayers of the people, bridging the pain of a broken past with God’s own dreams for the future, the promise of a great healing and a fellowship yet to come.