Grateful to remember.

It’s an anniversary we’d all prefer to forget. Those of us old enough to record memories have our own snapshots of what should have been a lovely September morning indelibly inked in our recall.

In the days that followed, we embraced our collective process of mourning: denial, anger, vows of retribution and divine justice. But that morning, struggling to understand the magnitude of what happened in our skies, one team of hosts at a local radio talk show did what they could to translate the shock and grief of that morning into a song. And played a tune sung by Martin Simpson, though the lyrics were written by another:

Icarus (lyrics by Anne Lister)

I never wanted to fly high
I was too fond of walking
So when you said you`d touch the sky
I thought it was your way of talking
And then you said you`d build some wings
You`d found out how it could be done
But I was doubtful of everything
I never thought you`d reach the sun

You were so clever with your hands
I`d watch you for hours
With the glue and rubber bands
The feathers and the lace and flowers
And the finished wings glowed so bright
Like some bird of glory
I began to envy you your flight
Like some old hero`s story

You tried to get me to go with you
You tried all ways to dare me
But I looked at the sky so blue
I thought the height would scare me
But I carried your wings for you
Up the path and to the cliff face
Kissed you goodbye and watched your eyes
Already bright with sunlight

It was so grand at the start
To watch you soaring higher
There was a pain deep in my heart
Your wings seemed tipped with fire
Like some seagull or a lark
Soaring forever
Or some ember or a spark
Drifting from Earth to Heaven

Then I believed all that you`d said
I believed all that you`d told me
You`d do a thing no man had ever done
You`d touch the stars to please me
And then I saw your wide wings fail
Saw your feathers falter
And watched you drop like a ball of gold
Into the wide green water

Now some are born to fly high
Some are born to follow
Some are born to touch the sky
And some walk in the hollow
But as I watched your body fall
I knew that really you had won
For your grave was not the earth
But the reflection of the sun

I never wanted to fly high…

I listened to the song again this morning. And took a moment to reflect not on some anonymous, faceless group determined to rain havoc from the heavens, but the faces that – along with a brief biography – ran in the New York Times for weeks afterwards.

Plenty was said, and will continue to be stated about heroism and cowardice related to September 11, 2001. I don’t need to add to that. Rather, I want to recall the individuals, each on their way somewhere that day to do something, who never saw the sun set that day. Whose grave was not the earth, but rather the reflection of the sun.


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