We’ll Carry On – Songwriter Stories

The Songs of We’ll Carry On – Song by Song

TOMORROW

Written & performed by Hughie Lynch ©2002 U. E. Lynch (FDNY Squad 1, Brooklyn, NY)
Recorded and mixed at Hank Murdoch Studios by Rich

One day at Ground Zero while delivering supplies to the FDNY HQ with Rhonda I met a battalion chief named Steve Rasweiler, of Squad 252 in Brooklyn, NY. I gave him a flier for the 3.11 concerts and he said “There is a CD you have to hear, it’s a song by a firefighter in Squad 1, I have the CD in my car. It’s been living in my CD player.” I said sure, I wanted to hear it, and he told me he was going to go get it that very minute so I could hear the song that night. He drove off and returned 10 minutes later with a CD with the words “Tomorrow’ handwritten in black pen. Steve said “you have to call me as soon as you listen to this. I know you are going to love this song.”

When I returned home I immediately put the CD in the player and as “Tomorrow” started to play the hairs on my arms rose. I listened, and listened again, and again. What an incredible voice! What an incredible song! I called Steve Rasweiler and told him he was right, I loved the song. Steve said the firefighter’s name was Hughie Lennon and he was with Squad 1, and he’d get his phone number for me. He called me back the very next day and said “sorry, it’s not Hughie Lennon, it’s Hughie Lynch, and here’s his phone number.” I asked him several times if he thought it was alright for me to call him, and he said sure, call him! Meanwhile, “Tomorrow” stayed in my CD player for a week straight. I finally reached Hughie…I’d keep missing him at the firehouse…and he agreed to perform on the 11th of March at the tribute concert.      –Valerie Ghent

HOLE IN THE SKY

Written by Marc Blatte ©2001 Jump Start Music (BMI)
Produced by Jean Neary, arranged by Eddie Martinez, lead vocal by David Patillo
From the CD “Aftermath – Songs of a new New York”
All proceeds to The New York Police & Fire Widows’ & Children’s Benefit Fund.

WEIGHT OF THE WORLD

Written by Eric Milano & Christopher Pickford (Chris died on 9/11, FDNY Engine 201)
©2001 Eric Milano/Christopher Pickford (ASCAP)
From the CD “A Tribute: Christopher Pickford”, performed entirely by Eric Milano
Recorded, mixed, produced 10/2001 at Frisson Studios, NYC by Eric Milano
I heard about the concert through a friend who pointed out the NYTimes article to me (a week after it came out). I then tracked down a night when Valerie would be at the Cornelia St. Cafe using their website. I then showed up and told her my story. Next thing I knew, I was leading off the next concert.

Chris Pickford
Chris Pickford was like a brother to me. And he came into my life right around the time when my own brother was leaving it, due to his battle with cancer. And, as many of you may remember, Chris used to say, that to him, I was like an ugly hairy little sister. So we were like siblings.

I considered Chris to be my best friend. Most people are lucky if they have 1 best friend. Chris, of course, had about 10 people who considered him to be their closest friend. That fact starts to show you the kind of person Chris was.

I looked up to Chris. Right from the start, he always seemed to know something no else did. Mrs. Pickford’s eulogy in the CD’s liner notes says how, when Chris was born, he looked up at her with, in her words, “such knowledge and understanding”. I knew exactly what she was talking about when I read it, and it seemed so perfect to me to learn that he was like that from day one. Chris had a special and unique kind of intelligence.

I’m not talking intelligence of the sort that let’s you get A’s in school. No, I’m talking about something that goes much deeper than that. This intelligence was of the kind that gives rise to an intuition about people and about life. Chris always seemed content. He just seemed to intuitively know how to live a life and how to face life’s obstacles. It made me want to study him, to learn the secret to being content.

Chris knew all about people. He knew how to read them, he knew how to successfully interact with such a wide variety of them in so many situations, and most of all he knew how to bring out the best in them. He brought out the best in me. On Monday, September 10th, Chris called me at work, and said “hey Spam (one of my many nicknames), listen man, we’ve gotta record man, come on. Listen, take off from work on Wednesday, I’ll write you a doctor’s note, come on! We’ve got to rock! Listen, you could get hit by bus tomorrow.” The old bus line. Chris used it all the time to get people off their lazy behinds. It was like his motto, “let’s go upstate for the weekend…you could get hit by a bus tomorrow…we need to rehearse today, you could get hit by a bus tomorrow…”. And I used to secretly love it when he would use that one on me, because he was right, and we both knew it. And with that line, and just by being who he was, he inspired me to do the things that I really wanted to do, and to be the person who I really wanted to be. And as he lives on in me, he will continue to inspire me to those heights. And I love him for that.

Chris’ quick wit and intelligence gave him the power to make others laugh. And I’m not talking about a giggle or a guffaw or even a hearty laugh. Chris could make me laugh so hard, and so long, to the point where I was reduced to a writhing mass of flesh and mind, to where I felt as though I would suffocate; god help me, to the point where I felt like I was dying, a painless, beautiful, and glorious death, drowning in a sea of Pickfordian irony. It takes a man of higher intelligence to be that funny in my book, and Chris was.

And it was the kind of intelligence that is needed to be able to create. And specifically to create beautiful music as Chris could. I hope people will listen to the tribute CD which makes an attempt at demonstrating that fact.

There are so many great stories involving Chris, as all of his friends can attest. When I think of Chris, I think of stories. Funny, outlandish, adventurous, exciting stories. Having Chris for a friend, or even just hanging out with Chris for an afternoon, made me feel like my life was one of those stories.

Chris was larger than life and was anointed early on with the nickname “Super Chris” (or “supe” for short) by his closest friends. He was my creative partner in crime. We shared and lived out our dreams together. A 6’5″ bruiser with a heart of gold plated steel, who could and would without a second thought, tear you apart if you were foolish enough to mess with him. He was a living inspiration. A philosopher, an artist, a merry prankster, and the most loyal of friends.

At my brother’s funeral, I’m told that Chris was moved to tears. I can’t imagine Chris crying. He was such a solid figure to me, that I was shocked when I heard that. Afterwards, he said to my brother’s wife how moved he was by the massive outpouring of love and respect, and how he could only imagine what kind of person my brother could have been to elicit such an event. If only Chris could have seen his own funeral. Then he would know how loved he was, and how important he was to so many people. But I think he knew that. He just didn’t get caught up in it. It was just his job to help his friends be happier people, and he knew how good he was at his job.

I wonder what Chris would have said if he was told how he was going to die. The great thing about Chris is that you couldn’t predict what he would say. But, I bet it would have been funny and surprising. In any case, all of our friends agreed, that only “Super” out of all of us, could be the one to go down in such a way; With buildings burning, helicopters swarming, the Twin Towers of New York City collapsing, the very United States of America buckling, as he dashed in to save the lives of people he didn’t even know.”

THE MEN

Poem by Norma Hardy (PAPD) ©2001 N. Hardy/music by Valerie Ghent (WTC Gr. 0)
©2002 V.Ghent/N.Hardy/Cavos Music (ASCAP)
Performed by Valerie Ghent – piano/vocals
Recorded by Rich Tapper at Battery Studios 4/18/02
Produced & mixed by Valerie Ghent
Dedicated to our fallen comrades
Norma Hardy PAPD ©2001

Val’s story about writing the music to “The Men”:
I met Norma Hardy through Lt. William Keegan (PAPD). In late December, 2001, I had just finished a meeting with Lt. Keegan, members of ESU and several others including Rhonda Roland Shearer and London Allen of WTC Ground Zero Relief. We were discussing what kind of safety equipment and Carhartts would be the best for the men and women working at Ground Zero. After the meeting I approached Lt. Keegan and asked him if he knew any poets or songwriters in the Port Authority Police Department, because I was just beginning to put the 3.11 tribute concert together (I had no idea this idea would evolve into two full concerts, a book and so far, one CD with others in the works). Lt.Keegan sighed and said that the PAPD lost a songwriter/poet on 9.11. I said I was sorry my question elicited such a sad response.

Lt. Keegan then said, “But there’s someone else though you should talk to, named Norma Hardy, she has written a poem that has been read at many services already. Let me call her right now”. He then tried three different numbers for Norma, and left messages for her at all three locations. A few hours later Norma called me, and we met later that night at Hogs and Heifers (my first time there…), where she gave me a copy of “The Men”. As soon as I read it, I knew I wanted to put it to music. The problem was, I lost my voice for most of Dec, Jan and Feb. Though I was experimenting with chords and melodies in my head, I couldn’t begin to sing it and really work on the song until early March. By March 11th, I had barely finished the arrangement and sang it for the first time (still a bit hoarse) at the first tribute concert.

I recorded The Men at Battery Studios in April 18, 2002. Until that day I had no idea how long the song was. It was a poem put to music, so it was different from anything else I had ever recorded. I just followed the words, and the music flowed from them. It all came from the words. Thank you Norma for your brilliance in putting these words on paper. Thanks to Tamara at Battery for making this recording a reality. And thanks to Rich Tapper for just putting me into record and letting three takes just roll by. And special thanks to Lt. Keegan, without him I don’t know if I would have ever met Norma Hardy. A few nights before recording the song Norma told me about some of the PAPD officers lost that day, the poet, the preacher, the prankster, the friend. I thought of them as I sang.

THERE IS A LIGHT

Written by Greg Parr 12/7/01 (FDNY 58 Eng/Lad 26 – The Fire Factory)
©2001 G. Parr (ASCAP)
Performed, recorded & mixed by Greg Parr
How did you hear about the 9.11 tribute concerts and decide to send in your song?
How did we meet – I forgot… Oh my friend Lt. Dan Sheridan, E58, gave you my info through Koo (WTC Ground Zero Relief) who met him while working at site. Through phone tag You invited me [unknown at time] to your tribute concert to perform on 3/25. I said “I know you’re taking a chance here; all I can say is I won’t embaress you” – – Thanks again

The song?
Sometimes it’s not in the best interests of the songwriter to explain the “who” or the “what” they are writing about. You let people interpret and connect to it in their own way. The events of 9/11, however, have connected us all, regardless of “who” or “what”. We all remember where we were when we first heard and we all will never be the same.

This song was penned on Dec. 7, 2001, while recuperating at my parents’ home in Chesapeake, Va. [Thanks Mom, & Dad J.] That was the day “it” was ready to come out completely. But it was written, and first came to me, while working the grounds of that hallowed place. It was written as I worked on a 30-day recovery detail at Ground Zero. I am a NYC Fireman. I say so now with a pride and a sense of purpose that was reforged by the mettle of those who responded on 9/11. There, the highest standard was set and a Hellish gauntlet overcome by the firefighters who that day served. And too, from countless other men, women and children, uniformed and non, who gave of themselves that day and in the days thereafter…

So, the phrase: “As I take you to” is an earnest effort to share the thoughts and incidents I, there, experienced. And as well, the hope that has grown from out of the rubble of our most urgent time in recent history.

My profoundest condolences to all who’ve lost beloved ones, And to all who have been affected by these events.

To my brothers & my friends – I will see you in my dreams!

…And Furthermore
I. L. M. to Lt. Robert B. Nagel of 58 Engine W/ Ladder 26, The Fire Factory,
-We’ll C U on the slopes Bobby, & “takin’ in” the runs

WAITING FOR THE SNOW

Music by Ann Klein/lyrics by Ann Klein & Phillip Levine Nov. 2001
©2001 A. Klein (BMI)
Performed by: Ann Klein- guitars, vocals; Klaus Kircher- bass; Robert Kainar- drums, percussion; from the CD “Waiting for the Snow”, produced by Ann, Klaus & Robert
thanks to valerie ghent for supreme organization.

The song?
i wrote this song because it was early winter and i wanted a blizzard in ny, which is one of the most spectacular things i´ve ever experienced. because that is such a spectacular experience, i thought it might make some nice magic for new york, that the white would cleanse all away. it´s a song about new york.

How did you hear about the 9.11 tribute concerts and decide to send in yoursong?
i found out about the concerts through YOU.

WHERE IS GOD?

Written & performed by Leni Stern- guitar & vocals – with band
©2002 L. Stern (SESAC/GEMA)
From the CD “Finally the Rain Has Come”
Produced by Leni Stern & George Whitty

to all victims of terror

ENGINE 73

Written by Kathleen Pemble Oct 2001
©2001 K. Pemble
Recorded live at The Towne Crier, Pawling, NY 3/2002 by Kim Galibert,
Performed by: Kathleen Pemble- guitar, lead vocals, Ali Chambliss- percussion, back up vocals, LeRoy Hankins- Keyboard, back up vocals, Marc Von Em- lead guitar, back up vocals
Produced by Kathleen Pemble
This song is especially dedicated to all the men at Engine 73 in the South Bronx, but also to all the FDNY.

Kathleen Pemble is married to Charles Flood of Engine 73 in the South Bronx

I wrote this song about a month after 9/11 it is about watching Charlie desintigrate emotionally and recede into the background of who he once was…he’s still not back.

How did you hear about the 9.11 tribute concerts and decide to send in your song?
I heard about the Cornelia Street Concerts from Louise Koogan of Sound Advisors

SACRIFICE

Written by Thomas Ferranola (FDNY E163, NYC) ©2001
Performed by August Moon: Joe Gansas on drums, Mike Gansas on accoustic guitar & bass, Thomas Ferranola vocals recorded Oct. 2001, produced by August Moon

WHATCHA GONNA DO?

Written & produced by Stanley Brown
©2001 Stanbrown Music (BMI)
Co-produced by James Clark, rap by Dice, vocals by Jack King, Tuluv Price
From CD “Aftermath Songs of a new NY”
All their proceeds to The New York Police & Fire Widows’ & Children’s Benefit Fund.

HOPE

Words by Elisa Peimer/music by Elisa Peimer & Shelly Riff
©2000 Hope Tunes (ASCAP)
From the CD: “Shed This Skin”
Performed by Elisa Peimer vocals, acoustic guitar; Shelly Riff keyboards; Paul Cabri guitar; Artie Baguer bass; Scott Miller drums; Yael Shacham percussion
Recorded by Sue Fisher at Wombat Studios, Bklyn, NY
Produced by Elisa Peimer & Sue Fisher

Please give us your short story or personal account of why you wrote this song, what was going on for you at the time?
I wrote the lyrics to “Hope” to express the challenges and struggles we face everyday on every level. It’s a universal feeling, of trying to overcome obstacles and live a happy, fulfilling life. Certainly, September 11 took the need to rise out of devastating circumstances to a whole new level – and I think the words to “Hope” took on a new meaning as well.

How did you hear about the 9.11 tribute concerts and decide to send in your song?
I heard about the tribute concerts from Valerie on the amazing Indiegrrl list, an organization of independent women musicians from across the country. A lot of friends had told me that “Hope” had been a comfort to them during this difficult time, and I thought I should send it in to Valerie, so see if it would be of some help to others as well.

FLY OUR FLAG HIGH

Written by Chris O’Brien on 9/14/01
©2001 Chris O’Brien (BMI)
Performed by Chris O’Brien and the Tequila Rose Band: Chris O’Brien-Lead Vocals/Bass Guitar; Khris Dodge-Keyboards; Bob Heckman-Electric Guitar; Patrick O’Brien-Acoustic Guitar; Marty Acuna-Drums; Michelle Munoz-Harmony Vocals
Recorded on 9/16/01 in my parents living room. (Chris and Diane O’Brien)
Produced by Jim Labukas, Chris O’Brien, and Patrick O’Brien

Please give us your short story or personal account of why you wrote this song, what was going on for you at the time?
My name is Chris O’Brien and I am 32 years old. I was born in New York City and lived there until 1983 when my family moved to Tucson, Arizona. My father is a retired New York City Firefighter. I have been a singer/songwriter for more than half my life and the tragic events of 9/11/01 inspired me to write and record this song entitled “Fly Our Flag High”. This song is dedicated to each and every American who had something taken from them that day and to all of those who are helping to give it back. I invite you to share this song with as many people as you possibly can and hope it will lift the spirits of every American.

SANCTIFIED

Written & performed by Elizabeth Jordan November 2001
©2002 Confetti Factory Music (BMI)
Recorded at Magic Music Studios; produced by Harold Stephan/Elizabeth Jordan

Please give us your short story or personal account of why you wrote this song, what wasgoing on for you at the time?
I live 5 blocks directly east of WTC. I felt my building shake when the towers fell, and I watched my building fill with smoke and ash as the dust cloud blew down my street and over my building. I sobbed good-bye to my sister on the phone, not knowing what was next, and got dressed to leave my home. Then I joined the Survivors’ March heading uptown. I walked 7 miles to my church because I didn’t know where else to go. People handed us orange slices, masks, and water as we walked. I wrote this song because I didn’t have any other way of expressing my grief and unspeakable sense of loss, and I turned to the only thing I know to make sense of it all, which is the truth of the resurrection.

Thank yous and acknowledgements: Lorraine Ferro for guidance and Kathy Carpenter for inspiration, my Tuesday night friends for their ongoing support

How did you hear about the 9.11 tribute concerts and decide to send in your song?
Elizabeth Hunter referred me to your project

ALL AMERICAN

Written by Larry May and Lance Jordan 9/15/01
©2001 L. May/L. Jordan
Performed by Larry May: 12-string acoustic guitar & vocal; Lance Jordan: electric guitars, bass & backing vocals; Asaf Shor: drums
Recorded by L. Jordan @ BlueNova Music, NYC
Produced by L. May @ L. Jordan

9/11 song referred by: Peggy O’Brien at Sound Advisors

THE WORD IS LOVE

Written & performed by Rosalinde Block – a Volunteer Massage Therapist/Engine 40/Ladder 35
©1987 Rosiejane Music (ASCAP)
Guest vocalist: Bil Kurz
“The Word Is Love” is dedicated to Michael D’Auria from Engine 40/Ladder 35. He saved my son’s life six weeks before he lost his own.

Upon signing of this song, I plan to donate all publishing royalties to the WTC Relief Fund

Please give us your short story or personal account of why you wrote this song, what was going on for you at the time:
“The Word Is Love” wrote itself in about ten minutes almost 15 years ago. I was working with a group of gospel singers at the time, and it poured out as I was waiting for them to show up for rehearsal. When I finished writing it, I cried because I knew it was an important song. I knew it had a “we are the world” type of message and would need to find its way into the right situation. Shortly after I wrote it, the aids epidemic blew open. On the heels of that came the l.A. Riots. Then came the war in Iraq. Each time there has been a world-shaking episode, I have attempted to move this song into the right circles. After 9/11, I went barnstorming to place the song. Now I know why I wrote it.

Firehouse, a memoir of Engine40/Ladder35, written by David Halberstam recently hit the stores. As I picked up the book, it opened right to page 84. There was the story of Michael D’Auria, the probie for the station. My friend Steve Kelly was reminiscing about how Michael was anxious to have his first “nozzle.” Each day his mom would call from Staten Island, asking whether or not he’d had any action yet. Steve finally gave him a break–his first nozzle– a small kitchen fire. It was my kitchen. The following week I went over to personally thank him. He was a sweetheart. He was also one of the first to die on 9/11. I’ve dedicated “The Word Is Love” to his memory. I hope to meet his mom someday.

How did you you hear about the 9.11 Tribute concerts and decide to send in your song?
Peggy O’Brien and Louise Coogan (Sound Advisors) suggested I submit “The Word Is Love”. Although the requirements stated that the song had to be written post 9/11, they said to send it anyway. It then became the finale on 3/11 — right where it belonged!

WE’LL CARRY ON

Written by Valerie Ghent (WTC Ground Zero Relief) 9.15.01
©2001 V. Ghent/Cavos Music (ASCAP)
Performed by Valerie Ghent – piano/vocal
Recorded 9.18.01 at Hot Sound Studios, NYC
Produced and mixed by Valerie Ghent

On September 11th I watched in horror from my roof in the West Village. I saw and photographed everything from the second plane hitting the South Tower to the inevitable collapse of both towers. After ensuring friends and family were basically alright (some family members live in Battery Park City) I began volunteering at Pier 40 at Houston Street. We had a Songwriter’s Beat concert booked in Riverside Park South on Sunday Sept 16th and we were going to cancel the performance. The more I spoke with the other performers we first thought of making it a peace concert, until we realized not everyone wanted peace at that time, and the Parks’ Department could not take a political stance anyway.

After much toing and froing on Saturday morning, Sept 15th, we decided to go ahead with the concert the following day. I then sat at the piano and wondered what on earth would be appropriate to perform, and what would I be able to sing without bursting into tears? I thought of the cloud hovering over downtown Manhattan, and thought of all the people lost there, and wondered if they could see us still, the way we could see them. I thought of the Union Square candlelight vigil I had attended the night before, and how I noticed that everyone was looking so deeply into one another’s eyes, something unheard of before in New York City where you never hold someone’s gaze. I thought of how no one knew – especially then, in the days immediately after 9.11 – what would come next: another bombing, poisoning the reservoirs, nuclear attacks, that the end could come at any time. But mostly I thought of the people I had seen die with my own eyes, and whose presence I could still feel. The next thing I knew, “We’ll Carry On” poured ‘through’ me and five minutes later the song finished itself.

I recorded the song a few days later, on the 18th of September, after spending the morning riding my bike to many of the local downtown firehouses. It felt important to me at the time to record the song in the moment, not months later when the mood and energy of the city would have changed. I didn’t even have an ending when I went into the studio, just made one up on the spot.

This song is dedicated to those whose presence we all still feel among us, to the weight of their souls which we all carry now.

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