How mankind’s resilience helps us recover from life’s most horrifying events is nearly impossible to explain. Yet on the eve of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, I found myself getting closer to those answers at an unexpected place -- the East Hampton Recycling Center.
Those of us who dreaded re-living the images of 9/11 might have found solace in thinking back to what sustained us through earlier tough times. For me, refuge was a little church nestled in a small Connecticut town led by the irrepressible Father Cleary long before 9/11. His gift to us was the Power of Song.
As you entered the last Saturday there was the unmistakable sound of piano and choral voices filling the cavernous space. I think I saw people smiling because of the music, a rarity as one darts from one dumpster to the next: cardboard here, plastic bottles there and newsprint over here.
That soaring sound took me back to that small chapel some 40 years earlier when Father Cleary during Sunday mass stopped a hymn mid-verse and announced that the Methodists across the street were singing at their service with more vigor. Shouting up to the organist, he cried "Mrs. Fox, take it from the top and this time I want you Catholics to sing like you mean it." And boy, did we ever.
Now over at the far end of the Recycling Center sat a boom box playing music near its owner inside the command shack. As I walked closer a jovial man named Roger slid open a window and explained that he was providing "music to recycle by."
This recycling DJ's playlist included Yanni among others to soothe the soul. Roger said he was even receiving requests. Then some customers were ripping their own tunes for Roger to share during his shift or recycling their used CDs so others could enjoy.
Father Cleary had his own favorite tunes, too, including a great rendition of Bing Crosby's Blue Skies which he'd belt out at the annual church variety show. Somehow his voice told his parishioners that everything would be okay.
Back at the Recycling Center, Roger explained that in addition to being the resident DJ, he also enjoyed singing. So I asked if he would sing something for us. After thinking a bit, he chose a hymn called "The Anchor Holds." You can hear a sample of Roger's wonderful rendition in the video clip above.
It was a fitting tribute to how 10 years earlier, faced with one of our nation's darkest hours, we survived and moved forward. Father Cleary would have enjoyed Roger's voice -- like his--powerful and reassuring. The anchor had held indeed.