On this special day, it is appropriate to remember. I write this at the same time of morning that the first plane struck. I was headed to court in Bellaire, it was a Tuesday as I recall.
When I arrived no one was in the courtroom, lawyers were gathered in Judge Norman Hayes’ office to watch news on a small TV. We weren’t sure what we were watching at that point but it wasn’t good.
Court was cancelled and as I drove back to Charlevoix, Judy told me the towers were collapsing. Little did I know that for our country life would not be the same.
The next few days were a blur, I like many others felt upset and confused. Upset but not sure who or what I was upset at. Confused at who would have done this and why. We have all learned so much now about radical Islam. We were so naive back then.
Anyway, for me today I always think of Springsteen’s The Rising. Even if you’re not a fan, you owe it to yourself today to give it a listen. It tells the story of a first responder that day and what he found.
“Can’t see nothin’ in front of me
Can’t see nothin’ coming up behind
I make my way through this darkness
I can’t feel nothing but this chain that binds me
Lost track of how far I’ve gone
How far I’ve gone, how high I’ve climbed
On my back’s a sixty pound stone
On my shoulder a half mile line”
Smart people tell me that the chain that binds him is a rope around the waist that first responders wore as they climbed the stairs in darkness. Bruce said on VH-1’s Storytellers that the sixty pound stone describes the burden the man carries.
“Left the house this morning
Bells ringing filled the air
Wearin’ the cross of my calling
On wheels of fire I come rollin’ down here”
First two lines are self-explanatory, the man leaves his house as alarm bells are ringing. Bruce described the “cross of my calling” as the man’s uniform, likely something like this.
Some commentators caution not to interpret the song too literally but the next verses invokes the memory of those who were lost on that day
“Spirits above and behind me
Faces gone, black eyes burnin’ bright
May their precious blood forever bind me
Lord as I stand before your fiery light
I see you Mary in the garden
In the garden of a thousand sighs
There’s holy pictures of our children
Dancin’ in a sky filled with light
May I feel your arms around me
May I feel your blood mix with mine
A dream of life comes to me
Like a catfish dancin’ on the end of the line”
But ultimately the reason I love the song is that it is about hope. The rising is first about the literal rising of the first responders as they ran up the towers. But as the chorus hits, the rising Bruce is talking about is our country rising beyond this tragedy.
“Come on up for the rising
Come on up, lay your hands in mine
Come on up for the rising
Come on up for the rising tonight”
I’m no musician but Bruce says that the “li, li, li” is akin to a prayer, a hallelujah chorus. My words don’t do this justice. You have to listen.
As I heard someone this week compare Eddie Van Halen’s rift on “Eruption” to the best works of Bach and Beethoven, I compare Springsteen to our finest poets. Even if you’re not a fan of the Boss, give this a listen and remember.
The first version I’m linking is actually by Sting. Some don’t think Bruce’s voice is melodic enough – I’m not one but just to be safe, no one ever accused Sting of that. Listening to this you can focus on the words and the message on this day. As an aside, it’s moving at the three minute mark to see the late Philip Seymour Hoffman jamming and looking up at The Boss with approval.
P.S. Political views aside, it’s nice to see the President jamming a bit here. He doesn’t look like someone’s grandpa or a faker like most politicians when it comes to listening to music. But I digress…
If you want to see Bruce do The Rising, here’s a great live version: