The Role of Music in My Remembrance of 9/11September 11th, 2012
By Arielle Loren
It’s been eleven years since the American tragedy of my lifetime. At the time, I was a young aspiring journalist, compiling as many newspaper clips as possible so I could look back on the historic day. Funny enough, that folder still sits at the top of my closet in my father’s house, primarily collecting dust and never calling my attention. Instead, I’ve found that music has kept 9/11’s memory alive in my consciousness. Songs have stirred my gut. Lyrics have catalyzed my thoughts. And I’ve come to feel more than ever the power of music in remembering tragedies.
Aldous Huxley said, “After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.” I have mixed sentiments about that day, including an undeniable sadness, pride as a one-time New Yorker and skepticism about the role the government played in handling the attack.
Although it debuted in 1995, nearly six years before the 9/11 attacks, the song that always makes my eyes water and reflect on the day the towers fell is Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men’s “One Sweet Day,” as it was performed live during one of the memorial services. This song, among a few others, is what makes me get the tissue box, more so than any old newspaper clips or even documentaries about the tragedy. It’s the emotion in the music that impacts all of my senses and makes it feel more personal than a simple news story.
Yet, I’m still proud of the way New York City, along with the rest of the country, managed to come together in the midst of tragedy. September 11th has become a memory of strength for New Yorkers, and it’s been name dropped in several tracks, including Jay-Z and Alicia Key’s “Empire State of Mind.” “Long live the World Trade,” the memory of those who perished, the forever memorialized downtown landmark and the power of NYC as a collective community, seem to be evoked more in me through music than any other creative medium.
Lastly, Lupe Fiasco’s “Words I Never Said,” keeps my brain churning over the United States’ “war on terror” and what it all really means. Seeing brown people painted as terrorists and affiliated with the September 11th attacks, regardless of whether or not they were part of the groups responsible for the American tragedy, makes me pause and really ask what’s the second agenda behind our government’s motives. It’s bigger than revenge and healing for the American people. That’s enough to spark a war, but not enough to expand it beyond Afghanistan, into Iraq, and now targeting other Middle Eastern territories. It’s not enough to be sad or weep about September 11th, we also have to think critically about our response, even 11 years after the event.
Music can be a tool for remembrance, a source of pride and a political statement. These songs have conjured up a variety of emotions and thoughts of that memorable day. They’ve kept me sensitive, open, intuitive and listening, as any art should do. For that, I am thankful and glad to have it as a random reminder. Whether I’m listening to the radio or browsing through my personal music collection, the music and September 11th are always there.
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