Rick Karr and September 11th

April 27, 2014

I woke up when the second plane hit the World Trade Center. I worked nights then, so it was early in the morning for me. The psychic shhhhhhhhockkkkkk wrenched me out of bed.

I went to Daniel’s because he had CNN. We watched. We watched. People falling. People jumping. People holding hands and jumping. I thought of Anubis, ancient Egyptian god, holding your hand as he leads you through the Underworld after you die. Such a human gesture. “It’s okay. I’m here. You’re not alone.” That’s the message I would want as I stepped out the window.

My sister and I have talked about that, about whether we’d stay in the burning building or jump. She says she would stay because you never know when you might be rescued. I say I would jump because I want to go out under my own power. Maybe that explains why she’s suffocating in a loveless marriage, and why as soon as anything goes wrong my first solution is suicide.

I went to work as normal that day, hoping to make sense of it all. I had left frantic voicemails for my college friend Janet who worked in Manhattan and was settling in to the horrible waiting to find out if she was alive or dead.

I couldn’t stop listening to the news. I soaked it in, sucked it in, voracious appetite, just take it all in and somehow somehow make sense of this day.

And suddenly there’s a voice I haven’t heard in nearly 20 years. Coming from my radio is Rick Karr’s voice.

I’m catapulted to my sophomore year in high school. I am playing Maria in The Sound of Music. My parents’ dream role for me: the chaste nun. Rick Karr is playing Captain von Trapp. Rick is about 12 feet tall and 90 pounds so he’s all angles and bones and he has this large head with a shock of brown hair and he’s a punk rock singer and it’s my job to teach him how to sing Edelweiss.

“{glottal} E-{head bang}del-{head bang}weiss{gasp gasp}{glottal}E-{head bang}del-{head bang}weiss!”

“Okay, Rick, that’s a start, now let’s try it softer, gentler, more legato, sung lyrically.”

“Right, I’ve got it. {glottal} E-{head bang}del-{head bang}weiss{gasp gasp}{glottal}E-{head bang}del-{head bang}weiss!”

We are in the rehearsal where we are going to kiss. I am dating Dave Blake at the time, white, middle class Dave Blake who does not believe in ghosts, no sir, 2+2=4 and hair grows back! it’s a rational world Dave Blake. And I can’t kiss Rick because I feel like I’m betraying Dave Blake. So we go away from the cast into a classroom and Rick is so kind and so gentle and so genuinely good. He is endlessly patient with me. It takes me 45 MINUTES to get up the nerve to do the deed and as I go in I think, “Forgive me, Dave!” And I tilt my head back to receive one of the sweetest, purest kisses I will ever experience in my life. Bliss.

And on this most terrible day Rick Karr is a reporter for NPR in New York City and his job is to go from morgue to morgue to morgue, counting broken, splattered, burned corpses so we will have a body count. So we will know our losses.

“Bless my homeland forever.”


[See Ferrying the Dead for another September 11th story]

Ferrying the dead on September 11th

September 11, 2011

I woke up when the second plane hit the World Trade Center. Even in my sleep there were voices urging me to be alert, to wake up in every sense of the words.

My living room window was open and I heard panicked journalists talking faster and higher that usual. All I could catch was that a tower was falling.

I turned on the radio and tried to make sense of what I was hearing. I went to the TV (I only receive PBS) and there was a children’s show on. It was one of the more jarring, surreal experiences on that most jarring and surreal of days, to hear the horror pouring out of my radio pitched against the saccharine-sweet music and primary colors on my TV screen.

Got ready and then fled to a friend’s house where CNN played the plane crash over and over. Interview with a congressman calling for nuclear strikes. People jumping. People falling. Jerry Falwell blaming Pagans for the attacks.

I felt Called. Upstairs my friend had a room dedicated as ritual space. I spread out my things on his altars and opened fully to the Spirit realms. And what I found there was completely overwhelming.

Chaos. Complete and utter chaos. Thousands of souls, panicked and shrieking. Terror in its purest form, without bodies to mediate it. I was aware of intense motion but also a stopping: They did not know what had happened to them, and they could not get past the Veil.

I went where I was Called to go. I cleared my back and made it a bridge. I calmed my spirit and stepped into the maelstrom. I cast a Circle and breathed soothing peace. I sang every lullabye I was given, and ended with a heart-rending, aching version of Blackbird by The Beatles. And I acted as wayfinder and guide, showing them the way through the Worlds.

I have never known such suffering as we experienced on September 11th, 2001. I pray I never do again. The suffering in the Spirit realm was beyond anything I was prepared for. Later, as we got the lines of communication flowing, a Witch set up a psychic pentagram in New York City where we could direct our energies. Her coven then redirected that energy to people and places that needed it. It felt good to have a community that came together in a crisis to offer our unique gifts and skills for the greater good.

I can only wonder about similar psychic shocks, especially the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Who ferried the dead then? What psychic scars still remain?

I have always walked between the Worlds. It is a lonely place to be. But on September 11th, I knew my place and I knew my path. I couldn’t help everyone. I couldn’t do it all alone. But I know the realms settled into balance over time. On the tenth anniversary of that terrible day, may we breathe peace for the living and the dead, for all that went before and for all that came after. Blessed Be.

Rise In Love by Kaia, September 11th

September 9, 2011

Words and music by Ysaye M. Barnwell. ©2001 Barnwell’s Notes, Inc. Used by permission.
Arr. Cairril Adaire

Commissioned by The Mystic Chorale, Rise In Love is Barnwell’s/Sweet Honey in the Rock’s response to the events of Sept 11th. The piece is dedicated to Cesare Giovanni Mathis Melussi, born two weeks after 9/11. Barnwell says “Rise in love” emerged as a mantra she found herself saying over and over in the wake of Sept 11th. I took a more contemporary R&B approach to the piece, simplifying lyrics without losing the political edge and the call to love so beautifully expressed in Barnwell’s original. Our recording can be found on Kaia’s Get Down, Rise Up!. (Hear a sample)

See Kaia performing Rise In Love

(We asked Ysaye M. Barnwell’s permission to record and perform the song—to my delight, she not only said yes, she said she loved the arrangement!)

Here are my revised lyrics:

Dear one, I never thought that you would see such a time
I hear your cries
Dear one, there is a reason for these things, but there’s no rhyme
I hear your why’s

But I don’t have the answer to your questions
I don’t have answers for your prayers
I just know this is a moment of transcendence
If we just have the courage to care

Let us, let us, let us rise in love

Dear one, our world has changed in the blink of an eye
I hear your cries
Dear one, a part of each and every one of us has died
I hear your whys

But I don’t have the answer to your questions
I don’t have answers for your prayers
I just know this is a moment of transcendence
If we just have the courage to care

Let us, let us, let us rise in love

The universe is polarized by hatred
We ourselves have been baptized in fear
Some of us are even paralyzed in principle
And there’s anger in the falling of each tear

For so long we’ve just watched foreign agony
The tide has changed; now we grieve at home
Though we’re victimized by terror, we’re not innocent
Where’s the courage to change, oh the courage to change what we’ve condoned

Let us, let us, let us rise in love

Rise In Love

November 22, 2008

7-part arrangement. Ysaye M. Barnwell/Sweet Honey in the Rock, 2008. I fell in love with this powerful examination of September 11th upon first hearing. But I also felt that the lyrics were too academic and the style didn’t unleash the power of inner song. But who the heck am I to question Sweet Honey?? With much humility, I arranged this seven-voice version in an En Vogue-influenced style. Lead trio of women’s voice, an “angel trio” of women’s voices, and a rockin’ bass that should probably be sung by tenors instead of altos.