A Unique Impact

"Most days of the year are unremarkable. They begin, and they end, with no lasting memories made in between. Most days have no impact on the course of a life." -(500) Days of Summer

September 11th was a Tuesday. I'm willing to bet that if anyone tried to think back ten years, there would be few days that stick out in their mind as being significant, just like the above quote suggests. Most days are unremarkable. September 11th was not one of those days.

Most of us have an intense recollection of that day. I had just started my senior year of high school, and I first heard that a plane had hit the World Trade Center while sitting in the Poughkeepsie High School auditorium (which was ironically gym class on that day). It's one of numerous distinct memories that I hold on to; memories that I'm fairly certain I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

But being ten years removed from September 11th, it got me thinking: what impact did September 11th have on the course of my life? It's true I did not live in New York City or Washington, DC., and I did not personally know anyone who was killed or injured in the attacks. The life of every American was impacted through the images we saw and the changes in government policy, but was September 11th a day that cause the course of my life to shift directions? I think it did, if only slightly.

In the wake of the attacks, Bruce Springsteen recorded his album, The Rising, which was heavily influenced by the events of that day. Songs like "Into the Fire," "Nothing Man," "Empty Sky," "Worlds Apart," "You're Missing," "The Rising," "Paradise," and "My City of Ruins" (originally written about Asbury Park, but which took on a greater meaning). The album was released on July 30, 2002, and I bought it purely by chance. I was walking through the mall shortly after graduation and decided to get the CD simply because Springsteen was hugely successful and I knew his Greatest Hits. It's one of the few times in my life that I've bought music from an artist that I was seriously unfamiliar with. I remember the first time I heard "The Rising" on the radio. I was in the car riding with my family and maybe some friends going somewhere - I don't remember where, I don't remember when, I don't remember if it was before of after I bought the CD, but I remember the song.

The Rising led me to fall in love with the music of Bruce Springsteen. I bought the album in July, I quickly began putting my hands on any of his work that I could find, and I saw him live for the first time that December. I saw him again the following July, September, and October - four times total during The Rising Tour. Never before had I become so absorbed in music so quickly, and up until then I didn't really have any kind of clear idea of what I wanted to be or accomplish with my life. I wear the Springsteen influence blatantly on my sleeve in the songs of my first album, and I will always be working toward putting on a live show as powerful as his.

In the past four years, my music has shifted away from Springsteen to a more piano-based sound such as Ben Folds - a result of navigating toward my own style and sound, and playing to my own musical strengths. But where Ben Folds produces keyboard-heavy recordings, I push guitars more strongly - a direct influence of Springsteen. And I always have to catch myself from writing too many lyrics about roads, and highways, and cars, because Bruce has covered all that stuff already.

So I find myself thinking that if it weren't for September 11th, I never would have discovered the music of Bruce Springsteen, and I would not be the musician that I am today. Is this the truth? Maybe. It's hard to see ten years of a road not taken. And sure, it pales in comparison to the way the attacks changed the lives of others, but I believe if the rest of us think about the past ten years, many will find similar stories and path changes within our own lives. And hopefully those changes have led to something positive.

"Come on up for the rising
Come on up lay your hands in mine
Come on up for the rising
Come on up for the rising tonight"
-Bruce Springsteen, "The Rising"

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    © STEVE SCHULTZ