I wasn’t sure how to start this post but I knew I had to write something, especially after DC101 radio host, Elliot from Elliot in the Morning, did his annual four moments of silence in remembrance of the four planes that were hijacked and crashed. He has done this every year, one moment at the time of each plane crashing: 8:46am, 9:03am, 9:37am, and 10:03am. I hadn’t given it too much thought until I happened to switch stations to see if anyone else was observing moments of silence at that time. Every other preset station on my radio (nine, total) all had chatter, music, or commercials airing. I couldn’t believe no one else seemed to remember; no one else was doing this when it has only been seven years, and our area was one of the targets.
I switched back over to Elliot where it was still silent and I fell into my own memories of that day. I remember gathering in the NOC at work with most of my co-workers, trying to make sense of what we heard on the radio while driving in, and what we were seeing on-screen. Everyone in that room was scared and confused. We kept getting odd reports coming from other parts of the country and when we started seeing the first footage of the smoke coming from the Pentagon, we really started to panic. We could see one of the control towers for Dulles Airport from our office windows and were located only 20 aerial miles from the Pentagon. It was truly the most frightening day in my entire life.
As my thoughts rambled on I began to think of how much more frightened and confused those people in the planes, the WTC Towers, the Pentagon, the First Responders, and the even the air traffic controllers were. It brought to mind a musical piece I performed in 1995 while in Symphony Band at Ball State: Symphony No. 1 (In Memoriam, Dresden, 1945) by Daniel Bukvich. The piece was written to musically “depict the fierce Allied bombing attacks on Dresden, Germany, on February 13-14, 1945”, coming from the perspective of the victims on the ground. It is done so by incorporating alternate playing styles of instruments and using sounds and speech made by the human voice. Despite many weeks of practicing and playing this piece over and over, all of us on-stage, including our conductor, were terrified and in tears during the performance in the auditorium. Several of my band mates who had parts where they were shouting words in German got so frightened themselves that they believed what they were yelling and broke down mid-performance. This fear was also seen in our audience–most of the people I could see in the audience were crying, holding hands with others, or gripping the armrests of their seats; all were visibly shaken.
As the last note of the piece reverberated within the walls of our chests, we turned the page and very quietly, reverently, began playing a somber arrangement of the hymn It is Well with My Soul (written by Horatio Spafford after great personal loss, music composed by Philip Bliss). The comforting, familiar melody was like a salve to the fear. It led to more tears, but they were more of relief that the terror was over. It gave hope and strength to both the audience and those of us performing.
I recalled hearing the piece Flight of Valor composer/arranger James Swearingen created for Flight 93 a year after the attacks, and that it contained that same hymn of comfort through great heartache. I feel all three pieces should be dedicated to all affected by 9/11…the victims, the rescuers, the victims’ families, the American public. We cannot afford to become complacent or apathetic. We cannot afford to forget.
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