Monday, May 2, 2011

The Rising by Bruce Springsteen

This morning I sat in room of fifth graders, most of which were barely a year old on 9/11, watching one of my fellow teachers explain the significance of the death of Osama Bin Laden. To these children the events of 9/11 might have well been the attack on Pearl Harbor. Even though they were alive during the times of the attack, they have no memories of these events. It feels strange to me that there is a whole generation of people who do not have the first-hand experience that was the pivotal experience for many people in my life.

As I watched this discussion, the words of President Obama came into my head as he quickly made real the effects of 9/11 to the country during his speech last night.
And yet we know that the worst images are those that were unseen to the world. The empty seat at the dinner table. Children who were forced to grow up without their mother or their father. Parents who would never know the feeling of their child’s embrace.
That was the most powerful statement he said last night and I’m glad that the speech wasn’t a flag-waving celebration but rather a thoughtful, solemn and deliberate message of unity and thanksgiving. While I understand the need to exuberantly express patriotism, it’s not the most meaningful way to make events relevant in our lives because it doesn’t really reflect the true depth of our feelings

After 9/11, one of the most famous songs recroded was “Courtesy of the Red, White And Blue” by Toby Keith which featured a line about sticking boots up certain orifices as being the “American Way.” At the time it came out, I thought the song was fun, but driving to work this morning a more personal song, much like the message The President gave last night came to mind: “The Rising” by Bruce Springsteen.

The Rising stands as the most significant and important album in popular music about 9/11. It’s centerpiece is the title track which tells the story of firefighter rushing up the steps of the World Trade Center, dying and rising to heaven.
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 60-pound stone [oxygen tank]
On my shoulder a half mile of line [fire house]
It is not clear in the song when he dies but in the third verse, Springsteen describes the journey to Heaven.
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
Through the sadness of death there is comfort and beauty in the afterlife. This brings meaning to the actions of the firefighter and to us as the sky changes from the ominous to hopeful.
Sky of blackness and sorrow (dream of life)
Sky of love, sky of tears (dream of life)
Sky of glory and sadness (dream of life)
Sky of mercy, sky of fear (dream of life)
Sky of memory and shadow (dream of life)
Listening to this song this morning the world made just a little bit more sense. The death of Bin Laden doesn’t change everything in our lives and for me, neither did 9/11. Yes, the world felt different and the sky seemed a slightly different shade but life continued.

After 9/11, I remember my mother telling me that the way we honor those who have passed is to continue to live our lives and go about our daily business in the best way that we can. That’s the same thing we need to do with the knowledge that Bin Laden is dead. We continue and honestly, I don’t feel like celebrating. I feel sad remembering those who we lost and hopeful that his death will prevent the suffering of others.

"The Rising" is a personal story in which we find ourselves, our fears, our hopes and our dreams.  We do our jobs every day, work to make a better tomorrow and Rise up together in a dream of life that we all share.  That is the American way. 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Kingsley. This is a fantastic song to use as a tribute to this event. I have never heard it before, but Springsteen has a great ability to tell the American story.