Walk on: The power of music after 9/11

By on September 10, 2002

 Walk onBy Courtney L Woods

Walk on: The power of music after 9/11On September 11, 2001, my grandmother was rushed to the hospital at four in the morning. At 9:15, after my first class, I called my mother to see if my grandmother had been admitted, and then she said the words that I will never forget, “You will never believe what is happening on television.” As she told me of the planes, I was concerned, but I went to class thinking it was a small single-engine plane. My second class lasted only forty-five minutes and my professor said, “We’re setting up a T.V. down the hall, if you all want to come and watch.”

People were sitting on the floor crying, and my professors looked more concerned than I have ever seen them before. I made it into the room in enough time to see the first World Trade Center Tower fall and hear the news of the plane hitting the Pentagon. I could think of nothing more than going home to my family, because I was quite certain at the time that the world was ending. As I walked through the Humanities Quad to the garage, I heard a voice shouting “Courtney!” It was my best friend Ashley. She was crying and I ran towards her and we clung on to each other for what seemed hours, but in all actuality was only minutes.

That night my mother stayed with my grandmother in the hospital and my friends Ashley and Beth spent the night at my house watching the continuous news coverage; flipping through the cable news channels, to Tom Brokaw, and then Dan Rather. Everything was so chaotic those first few days, and words like “complacent” and “superficial” were being thrown around to describe the American way of life before the attacks. I felt like I didn’t deserve to enjoy music.

Nearly a week later I delved into my CD collection; I started off with somber music and old favorites like Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, the Beatles and Joni Mitchell. I avoided my usual early morning variety of Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, and the Who for a while. When the telethon “America: A Tribute to Heroes” aired ten days later, I never felt happier to see my favorite familiar faces.

One of those groups was U2: I had seen them in May in Lexington and they had just announced that they were coming back to the U.S. for a third leg of their Elevation tour. Their first stop was at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, on October 10. I promised myself that I would be there. Shortly before the show, the U.S. began strikes on Afghanistan, and that motivated me even more. I would not be kept a captive in my own home. What September 11 taught me first and foremost was to live fearlessly. Life can end as soon as it begins; it’s too short to drink cheap wine. It was my act of defiance.

Ten thousand people crammed into Notre Dame’s Joyce Center; it was the smallest venue on the tour. As Bono, Edge, Adam Clayton, and Larry Mullen, Jr. took the stage, it seemed that troubles, while confronted in the show, were coaxed out of our hearts and put at ease for the length of the two hour set. During the songs “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” “One” and “Walk On,” the crowd reached their emotional apex. During the latter song, Bono brought out members of the NYPD and FDNY that they had flown in for the concert. They brought the house down, and no one who attended that concert walked out without tears and a smile.

As the months went on, the entertainment industry continued with tribute songs and concerts. While things were never going to be the same; they were about as normal as they were going to get. After Thanksgiving, my friend and I found floor tickets to the U2 show in St. Louis on eBay. We had to go. On November 28, I stood for three hours in the freezing rain just to see them up close. Their stage had a heart-shaped catwalk and I was standing only one person away from the rail. It was the most memorable night of my life; seeing one of my favorite bands extremely close-up.

Without music (and U2 in particular) I do not think the transition after September 11th would have been as easy. Some songs can make you feel elated and your heart pounds in time; other songs purge sadness from you, allowing you to release pent up emotion that rages beneath your skin. Music brings very different people together with a very common interest and without it, life would not be vivid or colorful.

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