Column: Pausing to Listen on 9/11

A local song about national grief

Chronicle readers will no doubt have their own memories of the events of Sept. 11, 2001 – how it affected their own lives and the lives of others they know or knew.

9/11 memorial services Ann Arbor

On Sunday morning, Sept. 11, 2011, Ann Arbor firefighters and police officers paused to honor those who lost their lives on 9/11 ten years ago.

I remember hearing the news while working the receiving dock at Busch’s Main Street grocery store – smatterings of information relayed from various delivery drivers.

My job as a receiving clerk was to be generally skeptical of this group. I was trained to ask basic questions. Where are the stale loaves of bread you say you pulled off the shelf and put on the outgoing racks? Where are the five cases of olive oil that your invoice says are supposed to be on this incoming pallet?

And through the day, the stories of news reports they’d heard or seen were just inconsistent enough that I felt certain that when I arrived home after my shift, I would learn that it was something else that had actually happened, instead of airliners crashing into the World Trade Center towers, causing them to collapse.

Of course, it was not something else.

So now, 10 years later, we owe it to those who lost their lives, to those who saved some of those lives, and to ourselves, to pause briefly … before we continue going about our business, doing those things that make us who we are.

Part of what makes songwriters who they are is to write songs. So Kitty Donohoe wrote a song on that day: “There are No Words.” And she was invited to perform it at the Pentagon memorial dedication three years ago on Sept. 11, 2008.

The YouTube video of Donohoe’s performance shows a national stage, in front of a national television audience.

On a smaller, local stage a month before, Donohoe celebrated the release of her new CD – by performing at my neighborhood bar, the Old Town Tavern, at the corner of Liberty and Ashley streets in Ann Arbor. It wasn’t a special, unusual event – the Old Town hosts live music every Sunday night.

Backing her on mandolin and vocals on the Pentagon stage, as well as at the Old Town, was David Mosher, who’s another familiar name in local area music venues. Donohoe was also joined on the Pentagon stage by celloist Pooh Stevenson from Owosso, Mich.

Some readers will pause today for 9/11 in a private prayer, or by attending a public commemoration like the one hosted by Ann Arbor firefighters and police officers in front of the downtown fire station this morning.

I will pause first by listening to local musician Kitty Donohoe sing – by downloading the .mp3 version of her song. And later I will stop by the Old Town, and pause again to raise a pint.

There Are No Words

there are no words there is no song
is there a balm that can heal these wounds that will last a lifetime long
and when the stars have burned to dust
hand in hand we still will stand because we must

[complete lyrics and .mp3 file]