Thursday, September 21, 2006

September 11, belatedly

So I wanted to post this last week at the appropriate moment, but I had strep throat so I slept the week away instead.

Anyway, for the 5th anniversary of September 11, I thought you all might want to hear a tipico take on the events of that day. As it happens, that day is all entwined with tipico in my own experience. At the time I was living in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. If I hadn't been up late the night before I probably would have been on my way to work at the Center for Traditional Music and Dance, which was on Church St. not far from "ground zero." Luckily, I slept in a bit and woke up to find my roommates watching the towers and the Pentagon burning on CNN. We were all in disbelief.

My first thought was of my dad. He was in Washington, DC, and I wasn't sure where his office was in relation to the Pentagon. I called up and found he was away somewhere else for a meeting - good timing.

Then the first tower fell and I realized my sister was right there, getting buried in the cloud of debris. She was a teacher at the High School for Leadership and Public Service, the closest school to the twin towers. I called her cell phone in a panic. Miraculously, I got through - the only call she actually received all day, since soon the cell phone tower would be gone. She was running with her students through the debris cloud, trying to follow a police officer she couldn't see, who wasn't sure where to take them anyway. They ended up in Battery Park. Eventually, after the second tower fell and they huddled on the lee side of a restaurant, a boat came and picked them up and took them to New Jersey. But we didn't know any of that until much later.

At least I knew she was OK. David David, who was teaching me my first few merengues on accordion at the time, went with me to Sunset Park, where we walked up the hill for a perfect view of lower Manhattan and the black cloud that hid the fact the towers were no longer there.

For the following months, no one could think of much else. David got fed up with New York and left for the DR - the day after the plane full of Dominicans that had crashed into Rockaway Beach. (A fine fall for disasters.) Other musicians stuck it out, finding different ways to commemorate their loss. For Dominicans, especially, the twin towers had been the symbol of the US and the promising future they'd thought the country offered.

I documented one of these expressions in my article on Pinto Guira. On a commission from a local guira player, he was working on an instrument featuring the twin towers and the Statue of Liberty when I photographed him at work in early 2002. Take a look:

Also, Santo Gil, the bass player in the Corona, Queens - based group of Berto Reyes, wrote a song about the attacks. I just listened to it again, and it reminds me of how patriotic we all felt in those months (too bad that's all been stamped out of us with all the lies we've heard since). It's an interesting song both for the topic and for the rap that comes in at the end. Here are the lyrics (I couldn't manage to transcribe the rap, though; too fast! If any of you can figure it out, please email me...)

La Plaga Maldita
By Santo Gil, Performed by Berto Reyes y su conjunto

Si el mundo sigue el ejemplo
De las Naciones Unidas
Estuvieramos en paz
Disfrutando de la vida.

La nacion americana
Yo le juro que la quiero
Porque ellos prestan ayuda
A todito el mundo entero.

Luchemos todos unidos
A encontrar el terrorista
Para poder acabar
Con esa plaga maldita.

Cuando mi palo gemelo
Todo se vio un ahumazo
Toda la culpa la tiene
Esa cara de chivo flaco.

Yo no me puedo olvidar
Ese once de septiembre
Que murieron tantos ninos
Tambien hombres y mujeres.

Vamos a dar la mano
Sin temor, y muchas ganas
Pa’ que salga triunfadora
La nacion americana.

Que Dios bendiga mil veces
La nacion americana
Que le protega la vida
Y tambien le protege el alma.

Que Dios bendiga nuestro [seres]
Por nosotros estan luchando
Y que regresen de alla
Con ese triunfo en la mano.

Vamos todos a luchar
A encontrar el terrorista
Para poder acabar
Con esta plaga maldita.

And the English translation:

If the world followed the example
Of the United Nations
We’d be at peace
Enjoying life.

The American nation,
I swear that I love it
Because they give help
To all the world.

Let’s all fight together
To find the terrorist
To be able to end
This damn plague.

When my twin tower
Was all in smoke
The blame belonged entirely
To that skinny goat face.

I can’t forget
That September 11
So many children died
As well as men and women.

We’ll give a hand
Without fear, with all our heart
So that the American nation
Will be triumphant.

May God bless a thousand times
The American nation
Let him protect its life
And also its soul.

May God bless our [soldiers]
They are fighting for us
And may they come back
With triumph in hand.

We all will fight
To find the terrorist
In order to be done
With this damn plague.

I've put up an mp3 of the end of this song, where you can hear the last chorus and the rap. Get it on this page:

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