CLASSIC BLOGNESS: Recalling when Springsteen helped us ‘rise up’
For the 18th anniversary of 9/11, we revisit a post from 2012 about Bruce Springsteen's unforgettable opening to "A Tribute to Heroes."
My son, who was 33 days old on Sept. 11, 2001, has asked us several times if he can see the “9/11 video.” He of course knows of the planes crashing into the towers and the destruction that followed, but other than snippets, he’s never seen the full coverage that we all lived through on that horrible day. He says he’s old enough now, and that he can handle it. And thanks to the wonder of YouTube, it’s of course only a click away.
And we probably should let him click, and watch it with him — it’s too important an event not to, eventually. But I guess we haven’t found the right way — is there a right way? — to filter the images he’d be seeing through a context he’d understand. A way that brings home the horror and the sacrifice, while at the same time reassuring him that he doesn’t need to worry. And with the images of that day still burned in my memory, I’ll admit I don’t really relish the idea of reliving them through his eyes.
Of course, every year at this time we all tend to relive those images, whether we opt to watch them again or not. And odds are we experience anew, even in a small way, the feelings of shock, sadness and helplessness that we felt in those days following. How would we ever recover? Was it even possible to move on?
Each year on Sept. 11, in addition to remembering those images, those feelings, and those we lost, I prefer to remember something I saw 10 days later. The major networks had hastily assembled a telethon they called “America: A Tribute to Heroes,” and it opened with one of the most moving and audacious performances I’ve ever seen before or since.
It was a wonder to behold, really. A little over a week after the attacks, Bruce Springsteen was singing of empty streets, brothers down on their knees, being lost without a lover’s kiss, a “city of ruins” — it encapsulated all the anguish of the previous days in a way that didn’t seem possible so soon afterward.
And then, suddenly, it was so much more. A few minutes in, a plea to “rise up,” not in anger but in brotherhood. A minute or so later, he tells us how: “With these hands,” with prayer, with faith, with love, with strength. Then he imparts again: Come on, rise up! Come on, rise up! Come on, rise up! Come on, rise up!
I don’t know about you, but for the first time since that horrible day, when I held my month-old son in my arms and wondered what kind of world we’d brought him into, I started feeling that maybe, yes, we could move on — that we could rise up. That we could come out the other end of this somehow better and stronger.
Whether that’s happened, or will happen, I guess is still up for debate. But I’m convinced that Springsteen’s message — which took bravery to share when the wounds were still so fresh, with this song he had written about Asbury Park but which fit our broken nation so incredibly well at that moment — was one of many small moments that put us on the path to healing.
So whether this will be the year we sit down with my son to relive that fateful day, I’m not sure yet. But one thing I do know: When we do watch it, afterward, we’ll watch and listen to this song. And talk about it, and remember, and pray.