September 11, 2012

Dona Eis Requiem

Today feels exactly like that day, eleven years ago, weather wise. I am flooded with memories of the instants of that day -- my second day of college. The no-tv-during-the-day-or-in-the-dorms rule was broken, for sure. And I was anxiously calling my parents, who had decided to take a day trip that morning, and I couldn't get a hold of them. A, who turned out to be a very hard and aloof young woman, was crying on the stoop; she was 3000 miles from home. I remember thinking how incongruous the Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin tunes playing at the little Italian Restaurant my parents and I went to that evening, as discussed how they'd get back across the country since there were no flights. I stayed up half the night texting my friend J, who was ready to immediately enlist in the army.

That afternoon the President of our college gave us all a talk on how not only did we have to carry on with our work (which was true) but that our work as students was the best thing in the world that we could possibly be doing (which was not strictly true). This was a springboard for a long discussion that began "We hear the newscasters keep saying the word "Tragedy," but this, this is not a "tragedy"...  "Tragedy" means something specific, and, since we were about to embark on this important work of studying the Greeks, we were going to find out what tragedy really means."

At the time, I accepted what he said, with a faint little voice of reservation in the back of my mind that made me wonder how all this applied to dealing with these deaths. The definition of tragedy didn't help me there, my friends, I assure you. Even Philosophy knows that there are moments to stop and sit in awful wonder, and even pray. I know I prayed some frantic Hail Mary's that afternoon, but the deeper prayer, the prayer of the Psalmist which both praises God's glory and asks for his eternal, life-giving mercy, weighs heavy on my heart today.

I was recently reminded of Faure's Requiem mass, which is by far my favorite, and so today, in honor of all those who died on or as a result of the attacks on September 11th, 2001, here is the Agnus Dei from that Requiem, performed by The Sixteen, Harry Christophers, of the Academy of Saint Martin in the Fields. (The whole recording is very fine.)

Requiscat in pace aeternam.


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