I wasn't going to post today. It's still too big an event for me to really write about properly, but, of course, it's the major topic on blogs and Facebook today. One Facebook friend has two posts which inspired my post. In the first, she asked everyone where they were that day.
Where was I? Trying to teach an aerobics class at noon - almost impossible. The club had decided to keep classes going that day. I couldn't lose myself in teaching like I usually did, but I had to teach. We all watched TV until noon, and we all went back out to watch as soon as the last stretch was over. I didn't let my kids watch TV that day.
In the second post, she mentioned Alan Jackson's song, Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning.
Of course, this reminded me of two beautiful songs, one by Lucy Kaplansky and one by Mary Chapin Carpenter [Note: Both videos have photo montages.]
Lucy Kaplansky lives with her husband and daughter in New York City. In her album, The Red Thread, which came out in 2004, she writes:
There is an ancient belief in China that when a child is born, invisible red threads reach out from the child's spirit to all of the important people who will be part of the child's life. The threads may tangle but they will never break.
As I'm writing this my husband, Rick, and I are preparing to take the most important journey of our lives, traveling to China to adopt our infant daughter, Molly Fuxiang.
The Red Thread is the story of the many threads that tie me to those who have touched my life, especially my husband, my family, and my daughter. It is through them that I have found a home.
Many of the songs on her album, The Red Thread, reflect 9/11, but the one directly about it is Land of the Living. She wrote the music; she and her husband wrote the lyrics:
Late afternoon back in New York town
Waking up as the wheels touch down
Pick up my guitar and walk away
Wish I was going home to stay
Line of taxis, I wait my turn
Tar and asphalt, exhaust and fumes
Beside the road on a patch of ground
Taxi drivers are kneeling down
Beneath the concrete sky I watch them pray
While the people of the world hurry on their way
I think they're praying for us all today
And the stories that fell from the sky that day
This is the land of the living
This is the land that's mine
She still watches over Manhattan
She's still holding onto that torch for life
Back home fire's still burning, I can see it in the air
Pictures of faces posted everywhere
They say "hazel eyes, chestnut hair
Mother of two missing down there"
I pass the firemen on duty tonight
Carpets of flowers in candlelight
And thank you in a child's scrawl
Taped to the Third Street firehouse wall
There's shadows of the lost on the faces I see
Brothers and strangers on this island of grief
There's death in the air but there's life on this street
There's life on this street...
...Carpenter was inspired to write the song "Grand Central Station" after hearing an interview with an iron worker on the first anniversary of the attacks. The man, one of the first at the scene after the towers fell, worked at Ground Zero for days afterward. The iron worker said that at the end of each shift, he felt impelled to go to the train station so the souls of the victims could follow him.
"He'd find himself just going to Grand Central Station and standing on the platform and thinking whoever wanted to go home could catch the train home," says Carpenter...
Got my work clothes on for love, sweat and dirt.
All this Holy dust upon my face an' shirt.
Headin' uptown now, just as the shifts are changin',
To Grand Central Station.
I got my lunch box, got my hard hat in my hand.
I ain't no hero, mister, just a workin' man.
An' all these voices keep on askin' me to take them,
To Grand Central Station.
Grand Central Station.
I wanna stand beneath the clock just one more time.
Wanna wait on the platform for the Hudson line.
I guess you're never really all alone, or too far from the pull of home,
An' the stars upon that painted dome still shine.
I paid my way out on the 42nd Street.
I lit a cigarette an' stared down at my feet.
Imagined all the ones that ever stood here waitin',
At Grand Central Station.
Grand Central Station...
About the musicians:
... M.D. Is "Land of the Living" a literal experience?
L.K. Yeah, those events actually happened—the Muslim taxi drivers praying and the taxi driver who told us he’d been beaten up. We live in The Village, so we were close enough so that streets were shut down and the firehouses were covered with flowers and cards. There were all the posters of the missing—that was all in our neighborhood. But it didn’t all happen in one day.
M.D. Putting that together with the Statue of Liberty reminds us that it is the immigrants who came to this country that make it what it is.
L.K. We had been writing that song for about a month. It started with the image of the taxi drivers praying—that was something I saw at LaGuardia Airport. I tried for a while to do something with that image in a song. My husband and I were in Las Vegas about three weeks later and we walked by New York, New York, which has a faux Statue of Liberty. There was a memorial around the faux Statue of Liberty with cards and flowers. Rick had this idea that she’s still standing, watching over Manhattan. That’s really where the song was finished...
- Me & Thee Coffeehouse Interview with Lucy Kaplansky
- Mary Chapin Carpenter
- Listen to Mary Chapin Carpenter's NPR interview
- ASCAP review of Between Here and Gone
[Thank you to A Good Story Later whose online discussions prompted this post, and who comes up with some of the most fruitful Facebook discussions!]