Ten years ago Sunday.
Nathan: The Onion
In a truly magnanimous and appropriate gesture, The Onion did not publish an edition of its satirical paper in the immediate wake of 9/11. It was out of respect for the gravity of the event. When they returned the next week, it was with a vengeance. The headline read “Holy Fucking Shit! Attack on America.” When I pulled that issue out of the free bin on Chicago Avenue, I just about died. It was a great relief to be able to laugh at everything that surrounded that horrible event. Other articles in that classic issue included “Hijackers Surprised to Find Selves in Hell,” “American Life Turns Into Bad Jerry Bruckheimer Movie,” “Massive Attack on Pentagon, Page 14 News”, and “Not Knowing What Else To Do, Woman Bakes American Flag Cake.”
And they didn’t stop with that issue. Two weeks after 9/11 their headline read “A Shattered Nation Longs to Care About Stupid Bullshit Again” featuring a picture of Britney Spears at the MTV awards with a giant snake around her shoulders.
Travis: Sleater-Kinney, One Beat
Though it didn’t come out until well after the initial shock of the attacks, released in August of 2002, this was the one “9/11 album” that really rang true to me. I could identify with the personal politics, the music was a firestorm of punk riffing, taut drumming and singer-guitarists Corin Tucker’s and Carrie Brownstein’s voices intertwining as best they ever did. Not all of the songs take on 9/11 or America’s reaction to it, but the two that do explicitly, “Far Away” and “Combat Rock,” are among the band’s best, with “Far Away” a personal favorite.
Tyler: The World Series
I suppose it makes me un-American to have rooted on the Arizona Diamondbacks over the New York Yankees throughout the 2001 World Series, but it does make me pro-baseball to have celebrated a team, any team, indulging “walk-off” (eugh) triumph in Game 7 of a championship contest that, for all my favorite sport’s faults and drawbacks, brought everybody together at a time when togetherness was a serious and valuable commodity. Plus, even the Jeter and Brosius “walk-offs” (EUGH) earlier in the series were fabulous to experience. When the D’Backs clinched, there was mass celebration on my freshman floor. With an exception or twelve. I did go to Washington University.
I’m not an artist. I don’t paint or anything like that. There is a lot of modern art that I look at with something a little less than disdain. For some reason, though, I had started a wall collage of newspaper pictures right before 9/11. I centered it with a small print of “The Nut Gatherers,” a little known painting by William Bouguereau. The collage was sort of impulsive and even stupid until 9/11. Those images of planes falling into buildings gave the collage a sense of purpose that I had never expected. When the semester was over, I tore it down. I’m not saying it was a great work of art, but it gave me the chance to externalize the event.
Travis: Mulholland Drive
This was the first movie I saw in the theater after 9/11, and its thoroughly Los Angeles feel and its dreamlike structure, not to mention its strange sense of humor and willingness to actually be sexy, seemed as far from anything being felt on the East Coast at that time as could be. There’s no real connection between the two, but Mulholland Drive made for a wonderful, intriguing, and all-encompassing escape.
Tyler: Ben Folds, Rockin’ The Suburbs
Within hours of arriving in St. Louis, I discovered Vintage Vinyl, which stayed open past midnight on Monday nights to allow music-philes like myself to purchase eagerly-awaited albums within minutes of their Official Release. Just past twelve A.M. on Tuesday, September 11, 2001, I bought Rockin’ The Suburbs and Bob Dylan’s Love And Theft. It would take some days before I was interested in listening to either, but I went with Suburbs on a whim as First Album Enjoyed After It Happened, and its charming, irresistible pop-piano atmosphere was everything I needed. Folds has somewhat devolved into a kind of odd semi-reclusive indulger of unfortunate whimsy, but Suburbs at the time–and to this day–was a delight. “Annie Waits?” “Zak & Sara?” (“Spelled without an H.”) “Still Fighting It?” “Fred Jones Part II?” “The Luckiest?” (A song with which, amongst others, I attempted to woo a comely girl on whom I had a massive crush, who lived on floor 1, from my spot on floor 3.) The title track, however ludicrous? Perfect for the oversensitive, introverted and undiagnosed fool that at the time I was.
Nathan: Human-Interest Stories
Human-interest stories on the nightly news are almost laughable. But in the wake of 9/11 there was never a better time for them. The stories of people helping other people–sheltering them, feeding them, and offering any and everything to those in need–were overwhelming. They made you damn proud to be an American and extremely grateful to have a neighbor like Canada. To think of the warmth and compassion borne out of such tragedy sends chills down my spine even now.
Travis: The Strokes, Is This It
This was the album that defined the fall for me, something I listened to every day, even before its US release, having been hipped to it by one of my closest college friends. Though it was recorded before the attacks, it will always embody the feeling of that time, that era, as captured by some of New York’s favorite sons (more on them later).
Tyler: Eddie Izzard, Dress To Kill
My mother and I had discovered Dress To Kill via HBO, loved the holy hell out of it, astounded by this bizarre Fawltyesque Brit transvestite comedian who pranced about the stage evincing wisecracks steeped in overintelligence and historical obsession. At my request (I believe), Momma Weav dubbed the special onto a VHS tape, which arrived in the mail a couple of weeks after That Day, and which was immediately enjoyed by myself, my Friends-like neighbors Jessi and Anita, as well as others from our floor, enticed by Anita’s hijacking of the whiteboard I’d affixed to the outside of my dorm door with the ecstatic exhortation “Eddie Izzard is here!” I know beyond a doubt that it was the first time I’d laughed, laughed hard and unceasingly, since I woke up to said mom’s exhortation that I “Turn on the TV.”
That might not be correct. I do remember discussing politics in the days following and busting a gut at said Anita remarking “Nader? Oh, he’d try to kill bin Laden with kindness.”
I had transferred to a new school for the Fall 2001 semester. I didn’t really know many people except those on my floor. To look back at it now, I have to imagine that seeing that event unfold together gave us a certain bond that we could never articulate. One of my most vivid memories is of walking down Michigan Avenue with my friends Matt McCain and Joe Ballan in search of a late edition of the Chicago Tribune. We went by the Tribune building. The street was carless and the sidewalks were nearly empty. We found our papers and held on to them for the sake of posterity. When we were walking back, we heard a street musician playing “God Bless America” on his saxophone. Like so many street musicians, he wasn’t very good. It didn’t matter to us. Going through an event like that is so much easier when you’re not alone.
Travis: Monday Night Raw
I’d never been much of a wrasslin’ fan, even as a little kid, but some of my friends were, and every Monday night, no matter what was going on in class the next day, they’d trek down to a bar on Boylston that shall remain nameless to protect the innocent bartenders who did not card if you happened to arrive before eight. Some of the most fun I had that year was on those nights, to the point that even beyond the novelty of being able to drink in a pretty cool, cheap bar, underage, I really began to look forward to Raw. Like Mulholland Drive, it was an escape, and there was never a thought of anything besides the fun that was being had in those moments. I still kinda miss it (though not enough to watch the WW-no-longer-F-it’s-E).
It took a few weeks for my beloved, friend-for-life roommate and me to connect cable to the TV my folks had handed down to us. (When I received the aforementioned phone call from aforementioned Mom, I had to stumble down the hall in an ancient bathrobe and shower shoes–it was a dorm, come on–to find my floormate Gretchen weeping in front of her television at replays of New York skyscrapers tumbling to the ground.) I watched David Letterman’s first show back on the air alone, on the aged rear-projection big-screen in the lounge area of Koenig Hall, the show that led the way for each late-night host to return, and forever fell in love with whom I consider the greatest talk-show host in talk-show history. (I was not of age to experience Carson in his time, and thus I can never speak on him with authority.) I will always remember his monologue, and his first punchline of the night, which I will attempt to paraphrase. “Dan Rather is here, so we can try to make sense of this, and Regis Philbin is here, so we at least have someone to make fun of.”
I also remember Dave’s brilliant, genius non sequitur as Regis described his own personal hurt at the tragedy. “So–how’d y’meet Joey Bishop?”
Christian thought has a tendency to look forward in time, perhaps because in Christian thought time is irrelevant from a cosmic perspective. It demands that we see both the present and the past in a timeless light, to know that events like 9/11, though unusual to us, are normal to the world. It was good to remember that horrors are not unique to us or to our nation, and to remember then that horrors such as these will only last within the space-time continuum that we understand. They will pass. I don’t want to trivialize the gravity of the 9/11 attacks, I don’t want to make light of the profound effects it has brought to our nation, and I don’t want to underestimate the pain that so many people went through as a result of these attacks, but it was helpful for me to remember that, from a cosmic perspective, 9/11 was but a blip on the radar. God will bring true justice when he breaks through time and destroys everything that comes with it. 9/11 will be a vague memory to us one day. The fears that it brought will have vanished. The future is not bound by these events.
Travis: The Strokes, September 26, 2001 at Axis
To tell the truth, 9/11 was not something that made me retreat into popular culture. In fact, everything else seemed pretty meaningless. I was at an artsy college in Boston, not learning anything, and the desire to be a writer seemed like a pretty pitiful one on 9/12. That viewpoint wasn’t altered much by the immediate uprising of people from every side yelling about how right they were about what should happen next, from the kids protesting a potential attack on Afghanistan outside my dorm to the kids who immediately wrote poems about the day and shared them in class. I’m sure I didn’t even really feel like going to see a band that night, but the same friend dragged me along, and the show made me a lifelong fan of the band, not only because of the short, tight rock and roll set they played, but because somehow, maybe it was the timing, it slightly shook me from that funk. Like I said, the Strokes defined that fall for me, and that’s why they get two entries. I could have given them all five.
Tyler: Ryan Adams, Gold
This is a slight cheat. I did not discover my beloved Ryan until some weeks after what happened. But Gold is one of my favorite, healing, soul-cleaved, indispensable albums, and it will never, ever, ever escape my heart. Unmedicated madness combined with September 11th to make my freshman year somewhat hermetic. (We won’t talk about sophomore year, wherein I stupidly moved into a single on a floor full of enthusiastic freshmen indulging habits that never so much appealed to me even when I was their age and in their shoes.) No matter. Adams made better albums before and since. But Gold will never leave my heart.
It was released to the public on September 11, 2001. Also, this. Inadvertent, promotional, destined. I do not believe in music videos (for the most part). But this piece of work, attached to a beautiful, lively, fantastic (however much the intro, much like the rest of the album, rips off so many aspects of easily-identified classic rock), heartfelt, heartbroken, heart-filled tune?
Bliss. I’ll always love you, though, New York.