9/11/12 – The Rising – 343

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


Never Forget


Never Surrender


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.



Love to all , and Stay Safe!!!


Fire boat at Pt Defiance 9/11/11

My beautiful wife and the WTC Steel on 9/11/11

WTC Steel

my tattoo that will be expanded soon… it had my FD, my Son’s name and birthday, 343, Eagles and 9/11 soon it will have more Eagle and The Rising incorporated

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