Songs Written About 9/11 to Help Us Remember

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Sometimes, words are hard to find in the face of a tragedy. Other times, it seems that there are too many words, too many emotions, and questions. But today, on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks, we must say a few words to remember the tragedy that struck New York City, Washington D.C., Pennsylvania, and the countless families affected by it all.

So, in honor of those we lost on 9/11 and those we lost in its aftermath, let’s turn to song in remembrance. Read below for just a few tunes that were written in response to that September day.

1. “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)” by Alan Jackson

Jackson’s country song is full of sorrowful questioning and honest verses. “I didn’t want to write a patriotic song,” Jackson said in a 2003 interview. “And I didn’t want it to be vengeful, either. But I didn’t want to forget about how I felt and how I knew other people felt that day.”

2. “The Rising” by Bruce Springsteen

Springsteen wrote “The Rising” from the point of view of one of the New York City Fire Department firefighters that ran into the burning buildings on 9/11. It’s a harrowing yet beautifully ambiguous account of this first responder’s sacrifice.

Left the house this morning
Bells were ringing and filled the air
I was wearing the cross of my calling
On wheels of fire, I come rolling down here
.

3. “Grand Central Station” by Mary Chapin Carpenter

In the aftermath of 9/11, thousands of people were working to clear Ground Zero. One such worker, an iron worker to be specific, spoke with singer/songwriter Mary Chapin Carpenter about his work on the site. He recalled feeling compelled to go to the train station after his shift to help the souls of the 9/11 victims find their way home.

“He’d find himself just going to Grand Central Station and standing on the platform and thinking whoever wanted to go home could catch the train home,” Carpenter said. And that, as you might guess, was the inspiration for “Grand Central Station.”

4. “God Bless This Mess” by Sheryl Crow

Written about the war that the United States entered after the September 11 attacks, “God Bless This Mess” reflects on the lingering pain of a tragedy.

The smoke covered the city
And the body count did rise
The president spoke words of comfort
With tears in his eyes

Then he led us as a nation
Into a war all based on lies, oh.

Photo by Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

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