Memory can be a curious thing

In his PBS documentary The Civil War, Ken Burns prominently featured Jay Ungar’s fiddle piece Ashokan Farewell—among other things it was background to Paul Roebling’s reading of Sullivan Ballou’s final letter to his wife.

I always found that melody both wistful and engaging. On the morning of 9/11 a street musician happened to be playing it just outside of the Foggy Bottom Metro Station in the District of Columbia. Hearing it on the way to work put me in pretty fair, if somewhat reflective, mood. Well that changed.

After I finally got home that afternoon, I was watching TV when they interviewed an NYFD union rep. When he said “we lost whole companies,” I immediately thought of Antietam and a monument I had once seen there commemorating losses suffered by a Pennsylvania regiment. As a result of all of this, whenever I hear Ashokan Farewell, my mind recovers these intertwined memories.

Here is a link to piano arrangement of Ashokan Farewell.

3 thoughts on “Memory can be a curious thing

  1. Vern,
    I was walking past my husband who was at your link and I heard the music playing.  I stopped to listen and found it most lilting and so sad.  Thank you for bringing it to our attention.

  2. Although politically and militarily very different from each other, i’ve always held some loose connection between 9/11 and America’s CivilWar in terms of how our culture reacted to both events.  Additionally, i’m a big fan of Lincoln and his writings and speeches.  I read about him constantly.  I think, in many ways, he is our American Moses.

    I remember sitting on my deck the evening of 9/11, taking a small break, and watching the sky’s eery silence and absence of human transport.  (Interestingly, in the hour i sat there and ate my BBQ ribs and beans I saw nothing but one sortie of fighter jets, which was actually a little comforting in the silence.)  The one speech of Lincoln’s that kept coming back to me when thinking of the day’s events was Gettysburg Address.

    I have a few cultural/poltical prophecies surrounding 9/11 that i often tell friends, coworkers, etc:

    [] One day we’ll erect a Tower of Justice on or near what we know call Ground Zero, akin to the Hague, where matters of international justice and incarceration of handled by the world’s governing body (sans the Wonder Twins, which i admit is a related influence—yeah i watched too many cartoons in the early 1970’s).
    [] Probably a few generations down the track, on the anniversary of 9/11 the Gettysburg Address shall be read at events commorating the tragedy.

    As the milestones of this conflict manifest themselves, i think the connection we as Americans draw between these two national tragedies shall become stronger and stronger, especially for our children who grow up witnessing it’s starting event only via archived video.

    And i think Lincoln’s presence in our cultural psyche shall get stronger and stronger as we do so.

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