The news of the weekend was predominately the death of the free people of the world’s greatest enemy in the last 30 years, Osama Bin Laden. But that wasn’t the only powerful thing to sweep the country in the past few days. My place of birth spent the past week being ravaged by an F5 tornado, 1-3 miles in diameter that destroyed much of Tuscaloosa, Alabama as well as parts of Birmingham, on into Georgia and then further north and east. Those people’s lives are forever changed now by something that hit without warning. In the small town where I live just outside of Abilene, TX, residents were awoken at 6AM Sunday to the sound of hail and things breaking and falling all around them. The weather people are classifying it as a microburst, but we all consider it a tornado. It snuck up on the town and didn’t hit the National Weather Service radar. But it’s affects are wide spread, uprooting 100 year old trees, twisting tree trunks and ripping them off. Our house didn’t have huge damage but there are giant tree limbs and trunks strewn about our yard as well as one of my AC units outside in the back picked up and laid on its side. A wind burst doesn’t just do that. Tornadoes do though.
This is just a small piece of what our country and our world has undergone in the past few months. Just a few months ago the whole country was bundled up as a freeze storm blew from the west coast all the way through the east coast. Everyone experienced it. My family in Mississippi hadn’t experienced snow for decades. Suddenly they were covered in it. Even Houston got snow. In our part of Texas, the interstate was shut down because of the frozen roads. Blackouts swept the state. We are not used to that kind of cold. It was insane. Our family that lives in North Dakota is used to those conditions, but where they are it got much much worse. In the northeast, several friends and colleagues couldn’t go to work for days at a time because of the cold and snow.
Then our part of the country goes without any precipitation for over a month. The drought causes an increase in burn bans, which of course leads to widespread fires. Just west of us in Rotan, over a million acres have burned in the past few months. Possum Kingdom Lake burned over 200,000 acres. Eastland had similar damage from fires. Texas was declared a state of emergency. Then the massive tornado swept through the southeast.
And we can’t forget the tragedy in Japan a little over a month ago with the earthquake that displaced a whole nation and killed thousands of people. The world rallied to come to their aid, like it has done with the crisis in Haiti, Africa, and other parts of the world. Those are nature’s acts of terrorism, for lack of a better term. They’re not expected, unplanned and require whole people groups to come together to move on. What’s interesting is that the music community is a part of this post whirl wind experience. Remember the concerts done to help the people of Haiti after the natural disaster there last year? There’s been several concerts and albums done to benefit the people of Japan as well.
Our lives as Americans was forever changed on 9/11 when a group of hateful men took over a few planes and crashed them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The other plane didn’t make their destination on account of some very brave souls. The master-plan man of this was Osama Bin Laden. Regardless of your stance on terrorism or the war on it, Bin Laden became a man of influence in that one act because it forever changed the way the wealthiest and most powerful nation operated. We don’t fly the same way as we did on September 10th 2001. Airports are not the same and going from point A to point B through the air will never be the same again, all on account of this one individual. He changed the way terrorism is perceived, made terrorism to be taken seriously by powerful countries as well as third-world or developing nations. And he became the most wanted man on the planet, more so than even Saddam Hussein. That’s influence, like it or hate it.
The response of the music community across the globe was heard post 9/11. Some of the best performances I’ve heard came from that era of music, artists from various styles and genres coming together for performances to lift our nation out of a place of despair and bring hope back into our veins. I remember and still listen to the American Tribute To Heroes which featured Neil Young and Eddie Vedder-The Long Road, and Bruce Springsteen-City Of Ruins from America\'s Tribute To Heroes. These songs, when placed in the light of our nation in the weeks and months after that tragedy, have a power to them that’s almost indescribable. And who can forget the most amazing Super Bowl performance of U2 in 2002.
This past weekend I was away from home and spending time with my father. It was a great time of connecting and talking, sharing stories I’ve never heard before and sharing a few new ones of my own. I was alarmed early in the morning to hear from my wife that a tornado of sorts had destroyed much of our town, that a tree was possibly resting on my house and that several residents’ homes were messed up badly and a local business owner and good friend of ours had his business badly damaged by the storms. I felt a little lost, a little desperate, and a little hopeless at what to do about the damage and what to do for my wife with me being away. I felt a little out of control. That ended up being a good thing. As I drove home, I tried to listen to something that might restore some of that hopelessness I felt, even though our situation wasn’t near as bad as my friends in Alabama. I wondered if they needed music that did the same.
There were a few things that scratched the surface for me and lifted me up. Among them was Matt Morris’ song Love, which is a beautiful track to sing to the one you love, but in this long drive was a reminder that I may lose the possessions I have but I’ll never lose love, the most powerful thing on the planet. The other big song that stood out was The Rising, from Springsteen, a track he wrote about the firemen who rescued people during the mission on 9/11 in saving people from the rubble and fires at ground zero. It’s such a beautiful story and I hope that if you haven’t heard it before or haven’t listened closely to the lyrics, you’ll do so
So now that Bin Laden is no more, the tornadoes have run out of wind and steam, and parts of the country is no longer on fire or under water, we’re all in a place that requires rebuilding. We all need each other, and will lean on each other to move on from here. We all need to know that regardless of what’s come against us, regardless of what stands in our way, regardless of the damage done and even despite the lives lost in tragedy, we all have each other. Love wins. Regardless of our political or religious beliefs, regardless of who is wrong or right about those things, we all need each other. Love wins.
I look forward to the new music and new songs written about this time in America and this time in the world. I look forward to what hope is brought through song, don’t you?