Last year, 2011 on the 10 year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks my wife and I went to a ceremony on the Tacoma Waterfront where the Gig Harbor Fire Department had on display a piece of steel girder from the WTC in NYC. As we were walking along the beach to the ceremony we were witness to a fire boat in the harbor shooting water and ringing it’s bells to memorialize those lost on that day 10 years prior. We actually watched the ceremony from a distance and then waited for all the “dressed up” people to clear out before we approached the “piece” they had it atop an old fire engine that was polished to a glowing red shine. Classy and fitting doesn’t do justice to the treatment that this symbolic and moving piece of history received. My wife and I waited until everyone had cleared out and we approached the Engine… there were 3 or 4 Fire Fighters in their class A’s packing things up, I was wearing shorts and a shirt, she in a light sun dress which is why we didn’t want to “join” the ceremony, we just weren’t dressed for it, we hadn’t really planned to attend we were just hoping for a glimpse of the girder… so at this point it’s just my wife and I and the “escorts” for the artifact. They see my tears around my sunglasses, my wife can’t even make it to the engine without breaking down. We stop and sit on the curb just looking, but trying not to look at the same time, no longer hiding our tears. We try to comfort each other by touching, rubbing my hand on her back etc… but it’s not the type of pain that can just be rubbed away. Yes it’s been 10 years ( 11 now) since that day, but it’s still as painful to us today as it was then. A kind Lieutenant from Gig Harbor Fire comes over with an umbrella to offer my wife some shade, he hands it to me and I give her some shade. We finally semi-compose ourselves and are able to walk the last 10 feet to the engine.. no words need to be spoken, we touch the artifact and are moved once again to nearly silent tears, though the occasional sob does escape my lips, as much as I wanted to be strong and hold it all in , I just couldn’t…. we take the time we need. The Escort is ready to head out, but they tell us that if we need more time they will stay, no we don’t want to hold them up, we’ve done what we needed and thank you so very much for bring this to us from NYC, it was a huge step in the healing for so many people. We thanked each other as Brothers in the fire service only can knowing what we each face at any given time. Stay Safe Brother….
So last year at this time I wrote my 10 year “tribute” to 9/11 for myself. http://www.facebook.com/notes/michael-cunningham/me-the-boss-and-911/10150283108196347 (in case you want to check it out, this might make more sense if you’ve read that one) well anyway….
In that writing I walked through a couple of Bruce Springsteen albums and I left off with the fact that I was going to go buy “the Rising” his tribute to 9/11. I did purchase that album and since that day, 1 year ago today, he has become my “favorite” I not only bought “The Rising” but also Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J., Born to Run, Darkness on the Edge of Town, Nebraska, We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions and for Christmas I got his Greatest Hits CD from my wife and I got the Live/1975–85 set for my son, and in March his latest album Wrecking Ball was released so I snagged that as quick as I could!!. I still don’t have them all, but there’s time left.. over the past year I’ve driven my wife crazy anytime we go anywhere.. hey honey listen to this song, or here’s a story song for you take a listen to this… she was pretty concerned that ALL I was listening to was The Boss…I explained that there are 17 Studio albums and each one is unique and takes time to learn and take in all the meaning and each one is like listening to a different artist and each song is a different story, and I really love his sound and soul LOL…. Yeah she still said it’s not healthy…. So after 6 months or so I mixed it up and listened to some other things here and there but still mostly the Boss when I was alone driving…..so yes I am a little OCD and I get “stuck” ( if you have to label it) in these phases of things that I get passionate about, things like the Fire Service ( that “phase” of passion is in it’s 12th year),things like my newly found volunteering opportunity at Sarvey Wildlife Care Center that I hope will be another extremely long phase… I used to go through phases where I would play a computer game or an Xbox game in every spare second, then I moved on to Gardening and growing things every spare second….. I’m still in that particular phase…. Some may call it growing old or growing up , maturing whatever I just call it growing…. I know someday I’ll pick up an Xbox controller again and I never have put down the mouse, I just use it for different things now… like clicking ignore when it tells me that I spelled something wrong again… or I put too many …..’s in my paragraphs…..whatever Windows, you don’t rule me!! I guess you could also say that for the last year or so writing these little essays has become one of my “ growing phases”, I’ve always been told that I was good at writing and everywhere I go they “find out” and I end up being the “writer” for the group whether it’s “fluffing up” bad news to management, or a “customer” or writing a complaint or compliment letter to some other Fire Department or hospital I’m the “writer guy” give it to Mikey, he likes it hey Mikey… well I’m also still in that phase….and given the day it is today, 9/11/2012 I figured I should follow up on a couple things with myself….. one is a review of “The Rising” and two is how the heck am I 1 year after the 10th anniversary? I’ll answer the last one first and the first one last just to be contrarian….I’m fine, thanks for asking LOL…. What? Not good enough? Well I am! Life has been wonderful for me the last year and I have no idea why I am so lucky but I have an amazing family , my kids are both wonderful my wife is amazing (and gorgeous!!), my job at Starbucks has changed to be much more satisfying and challenging, my 1st back surgery went well and I’ve fully recovered and am back “fulltime” at the Fire Department after a long period of on and off, down and out…. I found a new “hobby” in watching and Learning about “my animal” The American Bald Eagle, and I made a whole lot of new friends that are really cool fellow EagleAholics ( EA’s for short) ..another one of those “phases” that I fully immerse myself in that worries my wife …but it’s the way I am, when I “latch on” to something I give it my all, there’s no halfway for me…so in short it’s been a good year for me. Most people mark their “years” starting on New Year’s day with resolutions and whatnot, since 9/11/01 I’ve really marked my years starting on 9/11 last year my personal “resolution” was to find more ways to “pay it forward” and I believe that I met that goal this year. My “resolutions” for myself are just that, for me..ways that I “force” myself to grow and heal and mature. OK so my other “follow up” item from last year is to review “the Rising”…. WOW a powerful album that really helped me come to terms with some of my own issues and start my own healing process from a few things that I’m not getting into here, but will just say Thank you Bruce!!! I have no idea if this is true or not, but I read somewhere that after 9/11 Bruce was sitting at a stoplight and someone pulled up next to him and said “we need you ” and that was the ignition that he needed to do finish the album..
“the Rising” starts off with “Lonesome Day” an interesting song that to me tells the story of a man who never really knew his mate until after he/she was “gone” be it killed on 9/11 or left for someone else and that once he did get to know her or him, he found he didn’t really like that person much and kind of wanted to get back at them…
We then move into “Into the Fire” – a powerful song for a firefighter… or rather the loved one of a firefighter… here’s some of the lyrics: I need your kiss, but love and duty called you someplace higher, Somewhere up the stairs, into the fire, May your strength give us strength, May your faith give us faith, May your hope give us hope, May your love give us love…..
343 Firefighters gave their lives on that day 11 years ago, each of them left behind someone who loved them… and this year so far there have been 55 Line of Duty Firefighter deaths, each of them leaving behind someone who loved them…love and duty called them someplace higher….it’s a dangerous job…
Next is “Waitin’ on a Sunny Day” a happy feel good song to make you less sad about the last song… it’s a catchy tune but it does NOT prepare you for the next song at ALL….”Nothing Man” WOW this song hit home and actually made me TALK to my Dr and get some long overdue help… I may write about that someday but not this day….. this song to me is about surviors guilt, about PTSD, about suicide and people not understanding you…. Enough said… a heart wrenching song with feelings felt by so many AFTER 9/11 or similar tragedies faced in war or other “Battlefields”
The next track – “Countin’ on a Miracle” sounds like a happy song , even the music leads you to believe it’s happy, but after you really listen to it, you realize it’s very sad… love lost to death and moving on …again more of the emotions and feelings felt by those left behind on that horrible day 11 years ago.
This next song, “Empty Sky” , well the title says it doesn’t it… the New York Skyline…. With the towers gone almost looks empty and yes it’s about loss of a partner from murder on 9/11 and wanting revenge and wanting that person you lost back and for it all to have been a bad dream, but it wasn’t was it…. It was a cruel reality of our world it was an event that changed every single one of us that were over the age of about 10 on that day… to this day , especially working “downtown” Seattle – Jet City…. All the planes around “low” coming in to land at Boeing Field or Sea-Tac right over the city, right over my building… freaks me out…. And it shouldn’t!! There’s nothing I can do about it, It’s a helpless feeling “not knowing” …but we’ve all struggled to cope with that since 9/11/01 haven’t we… sure we have the Dept. of Homeland Security and as a Command Officer in the Fire Service I’m “privy” to some of the alerts that the general public doesn’t necessarily get and I see that we really are doing a good job at preventing many attacks, but just knowing that there are people so full of hate towards all of America that they want to KILL all of us is kinda freaky… I got to see and experience that hatred first hand overseas and it’s bizzare to me, how anyone can live with that hatred in them and think it’s ok and normal and right just boggles my mind, but 9/11 and all the other terror attacks throughout history prove it’s there, that evil exists in this world and I’m sorry but I AM NOT EVIL, I’m an American and I can speak on my own behalf and I can tell you 1st hand that nope, not evil, please don’t hate me and want to kill me….
Moving on… sorry for that episode but I had to say it…. This next song, “Worlds Apart” is very interesting, and it’s a good Segway song from the last one… to me it’s a “Christian” and a Muslim in love..the music is a mixture of middle eastern and pop…really a very uniquely done song and I do like it ( duh , there are very few songs of his that I don’t like) so even though we are world apart culturally , let’s let Love give us what it gives….don’t let government or religion rule your life this song tells me, let your heart lead you… I like that and live that way.
Time for another feel good song… “Let’s Be Friends (Skin to Skin)” but again Bruce goes deeper if you take the time to listen and learn… to me this is another song about getting to know individuals and not Governments and personas, taking each person for who they are without stereotyping, black, white, yellow, red, Christian, Muslim, Jew or Atheist, republican, socialist, communist or democrat don’t matter, the person matters, can’t we all just get along as Rodney King said? Or you can just take it as a song about a guy and a girl who want to sleep together…. But I choose the former LOL
“Further On (Up the Road)” is the next track and it’s a middle of the road one for me, it’s not sad, but not quite happy either.. I don’t know the true meaning when he wrote it, but to me it’s either a song about an American soldier in the middle east that meets an insurgent and they chat a little bit and agree not to kill each other “this time” but if they meet later all bets are off kind of thing… but sometimes when I listen to it I hear it being a song about loss and dealing with it and faith that someday you’ll meet again… yeah he can do that…make a song mean different things to you at different times… he really is an amazing artist… and yes I’ve become a connoisseur over the past year….
“The Fuse” is up next on the album and it’s a good one, but really the title is misleading and probably what got the song on the album, it’s a good song , don’t get me wrong but it’s a song about “anticipation” to me , it’s not the fuse you think of when you are thinking about 9/11 it’s the fuse of anticipation of pleasures or of excitement, the future of what may be…. So I guess in a way it’s a positive song to give you hope? Ok I’m not perfect ( or right) these words are just what the songs do or mean to me, you should really listen to them and decide for yourself…
Time for another happy song.. “Mary’s Place” it’s almost a forced happiness but we have to do that sometimes don’t we? We have to force the smile when we are hurting inside..but toward the end of the song it turns into real happiness, that’s good we all need that because we never kjnow what is just around the bend.. we never know if today will be our last… we need to cherish all we have and always let them know how we feel… because the next song, “You’re Missing” says it all about loss…how it can all be gone in an instant.. that book you wanted to finish? Forget it you’re dead, that call you were going to make to apologize for being a jerk yeah that person is stil hurt and will never know how sorry you are because you are dead… and everyday things like the laundry, the tv shows you were wanting to watch they are all gone because you are gone… your family is missing you terribly but you didn’t say you loved them last time you saw them so they just have this empty hole ..that’s what that song says to me….. but this next song, the Title Track “The Rising” moved me to sobbing tears the 2nd time I heard it… why the 2nd time you ask… well the 1st time I wasn’t sure what he was saying, but then I GOT it… boy did I get it…. It hit home so hard it wasn’t funny… to the point that I want to add it to my tattoo…. I have to share the Lyrics here… .
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
On my shoulder a half mile of line
(Chorus)Come on up for the rising
Come on up, lay your hands in mine
Come on up for the rising
Come on up for the rising tonight
Left the house this morning
Bells ringing filled the air
Wearin’ the cross of my calling
On wheels of fire I come rollin’ down here
Spirits above and behind me
Faces gone, black eyes burnin’ bright
May their precious blood forever bind me
Lord as I stand before your fiery light
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
Sky of blackness and sorrow (a dream of life)
Sky of love, sky of tears (a dream of life)
Sky of glory and sadness (a dream of life)
Sky of mercy, sky of fear (a dream of life)
Sky of memory and shadow (a dream of life)
Your burnin’ wind fills my arms tonight
Sky of longing and emptiness (a dream of life)
Sky of fullness, sky of blessed life (a dream of life)
Ok you get it? Go back and read it again and put your Bunker gear on….. yeah now you get it right? …I’ve been in burning buildings, I’ve rushed up stairs into fire but NOTHING like what those men and women faced on that day or any day in a sky scraper! I’ve fallen through floors in house fires, but not 100 floors up… I’ve been in rooms when they flashed over and melted my helmet’s face shield but never have I been in the room with steel girders melting around me.. the horrors of that day are unimaginable even to me….I’m a firefighter but it’s a very small, rural department we don’t have any buildings over 3 stories except for one old 6 story school house…my helmet is off to the men and women of our big city Fire Service personnel!! And to the 343 that gave their lives on 911 to try to save others wow. If there is a heaven, no matter what else you may have done in your life, you deserve to be there in my book and I hope that it is there for you with all my heart.
So there are two songs left on the album “Paradise” is next and it is another of those “interesting” songs, the perspective that I get from the 1st verse it is that of a suicide bomber expecting to get to paradise.. creepy huh? Kind of yeah but interesting perspective and really it’s a haunting melody and song.. then the 2nd verse is the perspective of a parent of a soldier that was killed by a suicide bomber and how they see their child in their dreams in paradise… the next section is husband who lost his wife to suicide who them dies himself hoping to see her on the other side in paradise only to find that she didn’t get to go there….. yikes… who knows I could be way off but that’s what it “tells” me so it’s a very powerful song, it reminds me of one of my very favorite, cry for start to finish movies.. ifyo haven’t seen it I highly recommend it .. the movie is called “What Dreams May Come” with Robin Williams and Cuba Gooding Jr… if you haven’t seen it and you watch it because of my recommendation know that I warned you to take a FULL BOX of Kleenex and be prepared to use them!! But you won’t be disappointed… why do we watch movies that we know are going to make us cry? That’s kind of sick isn’t it? Oh well humans are odd… time to wrap this up, my wife is waiting for me upstairs and it’s 9/11 I need to hold her and have her hold me before sleep tonight, it’s safe there. So the last song is “My City of Ruins” that title sums up that day…. The song was actually written before 9/11/01 but it really fits, it talks about depression and recession, about corporate greed and government failures… …but in general it speaks to the City of New York after 9/11 but NOT after about 9/13 or 14 2001…. Because after we came to terms with what happened well you know the rest of that story , we are one Nation United…. So on this 11th Anniversary I once again remember and honor the men and women that died that day at the hands of murderous fanatics of hatred and fear and I salute all of our men and women in uniform that protect us every day and are fighting on our behalf, not just the men and women of our armed forces, but police, FBI Homeland Security, TSA yes even the TSA people they are there for US… seriously even Mailmen and women who risk things like Anthrax and Ricin Attacks to bring us our freakin’ junk mail…. Every single public servant ( well except for most of the politicians) they are all part of protecting us all….so thank you to them. For Bruce, Thank you for this album, you help me heal a little bit more every time I hear it, your music makes a difference to the world, you make it a better place by giving us your gift that is The Rising.
Written In Memory of all those lost on 9/11
And for the 55 LODD Men and women in the Fire Service to date in 2012 your sacrifice is not lost on me. thank you Brothers and Sisters for your duty your honorable death was not in vain, you lived your life saving others and you perished doing what we love doing giving all of yourself for others. I’m sorry to your families for their loss they miss you dearly but know in their hearts that you lived life to the fullest every day and that you loved them all. This is foryou and for your families:
The Fireman’s Prayer
- When duty call’s me, oh Lord,Wherever Flames may rage,
Give me the strength to save some life
- Whatever Be its age.
Help me embrace a little child
Before it is too late
Or save an older person from
- The horror of that fate
Enable me to be alert,
and oh Lord, guide my every move,
for life is so precious,
- please don’t let us loose.
I want to fill my calling and
To give the best in me
To guard my every neighbor
- And protect their property
And if according to thy will,
That I must give my life,
Then with thy protecting hand my Lord,
- I pray thee, protect my children and my wife.
- When duty call’s me, oh Lord,Wherever Flames may rage,
Love to all , and Stay Safe!!!