We attended the annual Linden Hills 911 Tribute last night as we have many times over the last ten years. Since the tenth anniversary of the attacks have generated a great deal of attention in the media [why the tenth anniversary should have more meaning and garner more interest than the 9th or 11th is beyond me-why are we so taken with some numbers?], we had anticipated that the crowd would be larger than usual and indeed it was. We arrived at the Lake Harriet bandshell around 6:20pm to find a sizeable number of folks already assembled for the 7pm start. There was still plenty of space on the hillside where we like to sit and even though the nearby playground was closed for long overdue renovation, we were able to keep the kids occupied until the music began.
While our kids are still too young to understand what happened on 9/11 or appreciate why we were at the tribute, they still found plenty to enjoy. In addition to the music, they were able to actively participate at one point by marching through the main part of the crowd with flags a wavin’ as the orchestra belted out “Stars and Stripes Forever.” No children were lost during the march and as far as I know no audience members lost an eye as a result of being poked by the end of a flag stick (although a few came precariously close as our kids enthusiasm overcame their respect for personal space on more than one occasion.
The overall program itself was well-planned and executed as usual. It featured a good mix of patriotism, religion, and reflection on a day in history that continues to elicit passion and pain both on an individual and collective level. It went on a bit longer than in previous years which might be explained by the importance placed on it being the tenth anniversary of 9/11. While the additional length of the program wasn’t especially detrimental, it didn’t really add much either.
James Lileks was also in attendance and shared his thoughts in a post at Ricochet called The Lake and the Sky:
Back from the 9/11 Tribute Concert at the Lake Harriet bandshell in Minneapolis. Perfect night. It’s as American a venue as you can imagine - the full moon over the clear still water of the lake, the great bandshell that feels as right in the 21st century as it would have in the 19th; the men in Revolutionary War garb taking pictures with Miss Minneapolis, representatives from every branch of service. An immense crowd rolling up the hills into the dark of the woods. Dogs and kids and babies and by-God Boy Scouts. The music: commissioned works by local composers, the 1812 Overture, the anthem for every military branch followed by a request from the crowd for veterans to stand and be honored. A candlelight vigil in the last moments of the day; "Amazing Grace" by the orchestra, the chorus, the citizens.
It’s a volunteer show. A man who runs a hardware store started it.
At the end, everyone belts out “God Bless America,” and then there are fireworks. If that seems unduly celebratory for a day like 9/11, it feels right - the long slow move of the concert through the events of the day to the soldiers to stirring music to the final full-throated shout of “God Bless America” rolling across the lake all culminates in a concussive affirmation. You leave with your heart moved and uplifted.
It was indeed a moving and uplifting event. While it’s easy to take a negative view of America’s future prospects these days and conclude that the nation is hopelessly divided, when you witness your fellow citizens coming together in a unified manner to express their sorrow and reaffirm their believe in the strength of the country it gives one reason for hope. If in very blue Minneapolis, people will hold candles high while joining in singing overtly religious songs such as “Amazing Grace” and overtly patriotic songs such as “God Bless America,” then there is still reason to believe that what unites us as Americans is more powerful that what divides us along political lines. At least for a night.