In Remembrance

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Many people across the world are affected every day by the gift of music. To those of us who let it into our lives, we truly view it for what it is. Unfortunately, not everyone realizes how powerful it can be. For me singing was something that I was always good at; I never really took it to heart. I never understood when people would talk about how music had changed there lives; I just didn't see how a few notes put together could affect anyone so deeply. It wasn't until last April when our choir was chosen among a select few to perform at Carnegie Hall that I would understand the indubitable impact of music.

Because we lived so close to New York City, the typical tourist attractions lined up didn't spark our interest. Our choir teacher knew that going to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island would be an eighth grade field trip all over again, so she began to think of what we could do instead. She asked a friend she knew in the city about our situation. This friend of hers happened to be part of the relief crew at St. Paul's Chapel, located right next to site Ground Zero. Today St. Paul's serves as a museum and a shrine to those lost in the fatal attacks of September 2001 and to the rescue workers who donated their lives to help save others lives. We were scheduled to sing at the church, giving our own personal service.

We began learning a piece in class called " In Remembrance," an anonymous requiem with music by Eleanor Daley. "In Remembrance" felt different to sing than our usual pieces. The harmonies were beautiful, and with the mixture of the lyrics, I found myself getting chills while I sang it. Still I shook it off: it never left class with me.

Finally, on that rainy April morning, we made our way down to Ground Zero. As we entered the church, the smell of stale books and soggy clothing filled our noses. It was that smell of just coming out of a fresh rain, wet hair and wet faces surrounded us. Booths displaying medical stations, sleeping areas, and food stations were set up. They were frozen statues, the ghosts of the events that took place on September 11th and the weeks after. We shuffled through the pews and lined ourselves up at the front of the church.

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"In Remembrance." 123HelpMe.com. 22 Jun 2018
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As our choir director got ready to cue us, I felt a knot rising up in my stomach. We opened with the first line: " Do not stand at my grave and weep, I am not there, I do not sleep" Thoughts pierced my mind as the knot in my stomach grew larger. We kept on singing. " And when you wake in the morning's hush, I am the sweet uplifting rush of quite birds in circled flight." The knot rose into my throat; I felt the sensation that I was choking and then it released, and I connected. The song flowed like nothing I had experienced before. I looked up into the balcony at the banners sent from all over the country, sending their love and care. I was connecting with the people in the church; I was understanding what it meant to truly let in a piece of music.

As I realized what was happening, tears streamed down my face I could barely get a note out as we came to the last line of the piece: " Do not stand at my grave and cry, I am not there, I did not die." It was this simple line, the most intense of the piece, that brought it all to a close. Just like that the song ended, the silence rang through my ears. Slowly I felt the whispering sound of weeping in the crowd penetrate my ears. I found myself weeping also, barely able to finish the last line of the song. When we had finished, I sat down in the front row of St. Paul's Church a different person. To this day, I will never be able to verbally describe the feeling that consumed me that day.

It was this experience that changed me as a musician, a student, and most importantly, a person. I realized I had been fortunate enough to discover just how music really can move you. You can't tell a someone how to allow music into their soul. I thought it was just talk when people went on about the power of music similarly, when people described the effects of September 11th. I learned that music can connect me with anything and that you have to find your own way to connect to a tragedy, or equally, a passion. Music can portray feelings you never thought you could possess. I found myself with a new respect for the victims of 9/11, and a new love and understanding for music.


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