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Back from the 9/11 Tribute Concert at the Lake Harriet bandshell in Minneapolis. Perfect night. It’s as American a venue as you can imagine – the full moon over the clear still water of the lake, the great bandshell that feels as right in the 21st century as it would have in the 19th; the men in Revolutionary War garb taking pictures with Miss Minneapolis, representatives from every branch of service. An immense crowd rolling up the hills into the dark of the woods. Dogs and kids and babies and by-God Boy Scouts. The music: commissioned works by local composers, the 1812 Overture, the anthem for every military branch followed by a request from the crowd for veterans to stand and be honored. A candlelight vigil in the last moments of the day; “Amazing Grace” by the orchestra, the chorus, the citizens.
It’s a volunteer show. A man who runs a hardware store started it.
At the end, everyone belts out “God Bless America,” and then there are fireworks. If that seems unduly celebratory for a day like 9/11, it feels right – the long slow move of the concert through the events of the day to the soldiers to stirring music to the final full-throated shout of “God Bless America” rolling across the lake all culminates in a concussive affirmation. You leave with your heart moved and uplifted.
But. They played a piece dedicated to a young girl who died on a plane driven into the WTC by those evil sacks of ambulatory filth. I remember the story. She was on her way to Disneyland. She was three. The crowd listened in absolute silence, and when the last moments of music unraveled in the air, you could see a jet coming in to land in the distance across the lake. A bird flew in the sky in the same space, and for a second they were one - then the plane disappeared behind the trees, and the bird flew up until it was out of our sight.