Community after Tragedy
by: Dan Britt
One Friday in November, I began a journey from New Jersey to downtown New York City to visit old work friends. It was my first visit since the tragic September 11th attack. Although I’ve traveled this same route–the commuter train to the Hoboken station from 1996-2000–there were now, of course, changes in the environment when I got to Hoboken.
For one thing, it was the first time I had to ask a fellow commuter how I would get downtown from the Hoboken train station, as in the past, I always took the path train to the WTC. I began to ask a commuter, and that’s when I noticed the next big change: A great sense of relatedness and unity amongst commuters. Not that we were void of any sense of that in the past, but now we were faced with a massive perspective shift: As a whole, we’ve experienced a never-expected nightmare to our previously-thought “invincible” New York City.
The first gentleman I spoke to was extremely helpful and more than willing to offer his help on how I would now get downtown. His knowledge and love for the city was evident.
Then another gentleman came up to me and began speaking. This second conversation I had really reinforced my conviction of the universality and positivity of drumming. Make no mistake: The conversation began in a dark tone, as he depicted to me his firsthand witnessing of September 11th. This man is an employee of a large corporation located a few blocks down from the WTC. Yes, I’ve heard some details on the news and through casual talk previously. But to hear it from someone firsthand, while seeing the expressed pain and anguish was something else. In my past communication with commuters, yes, we would talk, but often to simply kill time. Now it was evident we were part of the same “family”.
Once he found out I was a drummer, and I found out he was a keyboard player, the tone took a tremendous upward shift. It was amazing how that shift even allowed us to get into specifics. We were now glowfully discussing drum techniques such as Steve Gadd’s work on “Aja”, and Jeff Porcaro’s hi-hat sound and groove from “Rosanna”. I began to explain some hand technique including the moeller stroke. We started to laugh at the similarity, joy and appreciation we had! One can now sense that we had come to relate to one another on two levels.
No experience can ever erase our September 11th tragedy. However, the friendly environment change I witnessed between NYC commuters now was actually heartening. And, in the case of the conversation I had with this second gentleman, drums were a vehicle that significantly uplifted the mood of our conversation — which, especially for this gentleman — brought him a temporary escape from his painful, visual memories.
We know how widespread the positive effect of drums is. Is it any coincidence that drums are now being linked to health more and more? Or why REMO has a department called Health Rhythms? Or why there are programs such as Drums not Guns and Drumming for Success? Or why Dom Famularo and Zoro have such an inspirational effect? I think not ”¦ Add this one to the list.
About The Author
Dan Britt is a NJ Drummer/Instructor who conducts clinics in public schools. With a background in psychological research, his inspirational writings have appeared in international magazines. He can be contacted at [email protected] or via www.dannybritt.com