The Day We Lost 3000 Voices Forever

Read, or listen to the audio version below...

Soundtrack "Hope's Dream" provided by Kelsey Lee Music. All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.

Silenced

 

9/11

It has been 21 years.

21 years ago, extremists hijacked four United States passenger aircraft and drove them into oblivion, in order to kill as many Americans as possible.

We call it 9/11.

Now, I am no expert on religious fanaticism, and I am very often loth to venture into any form of political realm whatsoever, but I ask you to put your political leanings and conspiracy theories aside for just a moment, restore your seat back to its full upright position, and remember with me.

I am going to talk about those whose voices were forever lost.

I am not all laughs and silliness.  I am full of depth, and 9/11 tapped into that.

I am sure, like most people, we all know where we were during the following:

 

If you are like me, then your world stopped.  And I know you remember the day clearly as I do.

I remember precisely where I was that day, and I will remember it until I am old and grey.  It is something that I hold very tenderly and somberly in my heart as one of the worst wounds I have ever taken, and one of the worst burdens I have ever experienced weighing upon my spirit.

 

Telling my Son

For the very first time on the morning of 9/11 this year, I showed my 6-year-old son footage of airplanes being deliberately flown into the World Trade Center.  I wept as I told him that all the people on board American Airlines Flight 11 instantly died, as well as anyone in the North Tower who was in the impact zone.

I wept later as we saw the second plane, United Airlines Flight 175, smash into the South Tower.  I wept later with the third plane, American Airlines Flight 77, disappearing like a missile into the Pentagon.  I wept again, convulsively, as I showed him pictures of a giant crater in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where the heroes and victims of United Airline Flight 93 will forever rest.  And I wept yet again as I showed him footage of the south tower, and then the north tower, collapsing.

Apparently I cry a lot.

Why did I weep?  I wept because, 21 years later, I am now a parent of two small children.  And the thought of losing either one or both of them in such tragedy terrifies me.  9/11 was all about terror.  Conversely, the thought of my children losing one or both of their parents in such tragedy terrifies me.  More than 3000 children lost a parent on 9/11.  8 children were killed: five on American Flight 77, and three on United Airlines Flight 175.

There is solace in grief.  Weeping eventually runs its course.  Wells run dry.  But we all need to grieve: there are heart issues when you do not grieve.  In fact, Dr. Dan Allender once said, “All addiction is failure to grieve.”  We must grieve, or we will not learn a thing.

So: I grieved this past Sunday, for the 22nd time, but in a way wholly new and fresh. And understand me when I say that it was good.  I needed to reflect.  I am a parent.  And I love my children.  I never want a 9/11 to happen to them.  The most I ever want to fear for them is a school shooting; and I do not even want to fear that.

I want my children to be safe, in such an unsafe world.

 

Whisper

I used to be a singer.  11 years ago I partnered with a friend to create and produce a song called Whisper.  I am going to finish typing soon, and just let you marinate in this song.  This is a work that was near and dear to my heart because, on 9/11, I was going through a very self-absorbed and selfish time of my life, and so the full weight of it was somewhat lost on me.  However, 5 years afterwards, the full reality of it crippled me, and I wrote a poem which would eventually take life in the form of this song.

It is 9 minutes and 11 seconds long.  And coincidentally, it turned out to be the 11th song on my 9th collection of musical works.

I leave you with this: it is good and healthy to reflect, and not forget.  This is my song, Whisper.  I have pasted the lyrics below, and I have embedded the song from my SoundCloud account.

In this song you will hear several audio samples that are actually taken from the day itself.  In the end, you will hear the lonely unanswered plea from the radio tower in Cleveland trying to raise United 93.  And at the very end, you will hear the haunting firefighter “PASS device” – a locator beacon - that was sounding in droves from the smoldering heap of the fallen towers – attached to 343 valiant heroes whose voices would never be heard again.

Listen if you dare.  And grieve.  And always remember.  And never forget.

We use our voices.  That is our job.  But do you dare hear the Whisper of voices that will never be heard again?

  • Fathers that would never use their voices to tell a bedtime story
  • Mothers that would never use their voices to sing to their newborns
  • Children whose voices would never crack and change and grow to adulthood

 

"We are breathing the dead, taking them into our lungs as living we had taken them into our arms.” – Hettie Jones, New York City poet

 

 

Song of silence, teal sky

Wisps in stratus gliding by

Bastions steady guard the shore

Proud defense ‘gainst woe and war

Gleam ye faintly through the night, now

Mirror sun with proud delight!

Tridents anchored, vigil landing

How you define our sense of standing

Tide of time rolls endless toward

Two twin sentinels fate ignored

Souls in progress, life ongoing

Business, schedules, comfort knowing

Meetings planned & days arranged

8:46…life is changed

Guided missile, brazen foe

Descending upon souls below

Uninclinéd victim’s call

Goes unanswered in the ball

Of fire and hate and roaring noise:

Shattered ego, shaken poise

Can you hear the whisper overwhelmed by thunder

O the voices calling from the soil

Dare I feel this tremor?  Will this leave me never?

Can the world be evermore the same?

Cacophony laden, bellowing gust

Seam rips silence, scattering rust

Sparks and showers, Beams and clutter

Gasping sounds of endless mutter

Wailing sirens, mirth cut short

Haunting scream of death’s retort

Blackened fumes go spiraling up

Widened eyes taste anger’s cup

Ever upward, steel unbending

To the point of scarréd rending

Debris aloft, splinters flying

Life and matters fall with crying

Quiet strife of woe and war has

Met most unwelcome on this shore

Were we sleeping, were we faint?

Plunging eagle, faltering saint

Tolls go meanwhile counting higher

Ebbing struggle through muck and mire

Life familiar before 8:46

What was added to the mix

Was it ego, was it might

Our chests’ beat heard far through night?

Plans were hatched with venom much

Snaking through our mental clutch

Unseen foes crept through our gate

And plunged their missiles steered by hate

One stands weeping, brother down

Soon to meet him on the ground

Personal whistles sound motionless heroes

343 to 0

When I hear the sirens, fading into silence

Give me room to think and breathe and be

O to shake the sadness, to undo this madness

But the whispers haunt me to this day

Into our ribs, into our flesh

Holding ransom our precious breath

Can it be they found a way

Into our guts that vile day

O great dilemna mine!

O massive predicament mine!

How miniscule your minutae!

Can you hear the whisper overwhelmed by thunder

O the voices calling from the soil

Dare I feel this tremor?  Will this leave me never?

Can the world be evermore the same?

There is ash in my breath, breathing souls, tasting death

Could this happen any other way?

When this night has ended, can we say we’ve mended

For our heroes all have sailed away

 

Remember.  All gave some.  Some gave all.

Remember.

 

=====

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The Voices In My Head Blog
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17 thoughts on “The Day We Lost 3000 Voices Forever”

  1. As a nation, we’ve grown up in a very aggressive and/or separatist way towards our neighbors and I think it’s that way for a lot of countries around the world. The US has always embraced that sense of oneness with ones neighbors and I think it’s something that makes the USA so endearing and so successful in general, but also why the current wave of PC culture is so destructive and divisive…
    While I do feel for the people who lost loved ones, I’m unable to feel it on the same level, but I sure envy you for being able to! It really is a gift to have that sense of family as a nation.
    As an aside, we were preparing to sell our first house when the attacks happened and we also saw it happen live… It was truly unreal…

    1. Thank you my friend. I do have to break from the norm every once in a while because there are things more solemn and precious than laughter. And I agree with everything you said. I was walking into work and my boss came riding up on his bike exclaiming “Did you hear? Did you hear? They’re bombing the World Trade Center!” I cocked my head and furrowed my brows in confusion. And by the time we got into the office and turned on the radio, the very first thing I heard – and I am not kidding – is “The World Trade Center is no more.” We would be glued to the CNN for the rest of the day…week…month…

      1. For sure! It’s something that’s so unthinkable that when it happens you feel like you need more than a double-take… Think CNN was also the one supplying the live footage to SA.

          1. I’d say that makes sense! The aftermath too, when they were driving that red pickup looking for survivors to head for El-Toro Air Force Base. I remember seeing some after footage a few days later with people absolutely covered in concrete dust and a thick dust-fog was still visible… I think the biggest moment for me during the whole thing was seeing the rubble once the dust cleared…

  2. Oh Josh – man this was a powerful post. Powerful. 9/11 is still very raw and tender for me. I will always remember and never forget. Thank you for honoring the voices we lost.

  3. Great, somber post, Josh. I remember your song from last year and listened again, a beautiful tribute and story. That day I had 2 little kids at home eating breakfast, when our doorbell rang and a group of 5 men – guys from the construction company finishing the houses in our neighborhood, who remembered seeing our huge tv when we moved in, asked if I had the tv on – which I didn’t. They quickly explained and then they all came in and sat with me in front of the tv in shock for the next couple of hours. There has never before or since been such a sadness in my life. By the way, did you know Michael W Smith’s “WORSHIP” Album was released that day? God’s timing to release that and help a lot of people get through this pain through that music was amazing.

    1. Wow! No, I did not know that – I’ll check it out. I think I may have it already, but not sure. And that’s powerful. Just that little account of community coming together to gather and watch it unfold, despite the necessary evil of the circumstances (HAVING to watch it unfold) was a microcosm of the time: it brought people together. “We are all Americans” is a phrase that came from the French newspaper (https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/28724/we-are-all-americans-worlds-response-911). Truly a somber time and a forever somber memory.

  4. I remember I was a freshman in college when 9/11 happened. And I remember the uncertainty of what was supposed to happen next in the immediate period that followed. People started talking about war and a draft. I remember the awful feeling I’d get in my stomach when I thought about that possibility.

    That was a very, very thoughtful song you wrote, Josh. Thank you for sharing everything and being so open.

    1. My pleasure, my friend. I can listen to all of it except the firefighter PASS devices at the end. So powerful and eerie. There were apparently dozens of them going off in The Pile, if they survived being pulverized, that is. Horrible.

  5. Very moving piece, Josh. My son (also named Josh) was only 4 years old, but he saw those images on TV over and over again. It’s hard to tell your small child that there are very bad people in the world who do utterly evil things to totally innocent men, women, and children. But it needs to be said, understood, and remembered. He’s one of the youngest to have a memory of 9/11 (ironically, also my dad’s birthday. A whole lot of birthdays ruined forever for him). I was the same age when Kennedy was assassinated and I never forgot that pivotal event in our history either. It’s imperative to remember and to make a stand against those who would do us such harm. My family survived the Holocaust, with many horror stories that have been passed down. Yes, evil does exist, but it’s our duty to never forget, to vow to fight it with all our being, and to the best of our abilities, never let it happen again, to us or anyone else. Though tragically it does, taking different forms in different times. Thanks for the tribute. It hurts our hearts as it should sharpen our resolve.

    1. “It hurts our hearts as it should sharpen our resolve.”. Indeed. Well put. It shouldn’t exist to do either, but the fact that it does, if we let it, can hopefully galvanize us towards unity again someday, once we start taking the serious things seriously again and stop acting like babies at every new and perceived offense. We’ve become a nation of weaklings and in doing so, we let our vigilance fall asleep again. God forbid it ever takes something like 9/11 to wake us up again.

  6. Thank you for this reminder. As time goes by, it becomes easier and easier to forget. Easier to ignore? Easier to avoid reliving? We need to examine ourselves – every one of us – to find within our hearts the love that God has implanted there. Love heals wounds, bridges differences and makes us agents of compassionate change. We can’t expel evil from the world, but we can impact the world through how we respond to it. Love.

    1. And the winner of the best blog comment goes to…Jon Gardner. “Love” is right, my friend. Love, my friend. O that we would all – EACH of us – be more loving. Thanks for honoring and remembering.

  7. It’s incredible how vividly the memories really do stay with you. I was 9 years old, sitting in my fourth grade class. Someone ran into the room and whispered something into my teacher’s ear. She got a panicked look on her face and ran to turn on the television. She stood there speechless (and speechless was never something you’d use to describe Mrs. Hickock) as we watched the footage in dead silence. Even as fourth graders we knew something monumental had just happened.

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