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September 11 & Adagio For Strings Opus 11

I feel an overwhelming sadness today.

Over the last few weeks, a piece of classical music has been going through my head. I can’t remember which piece it is, but know it’s intense and part of a music score from a war movie. The Killing Fields? Apocalypse Now? No. It’s Samuel Barber’s – Adagio for Strings Op. 11 from the movie Platoon.

In trying to find this piece of music, I found through my research that it had been played to commemorate the victims of September 11. No surprise. I play the music all day.


It’s 2001. It’s Tuesday and it is a beautiful fall day. I’m at home with the kids today. They are 4 and 2 years old.

I normally work Monday, Wednesday and Friday at a financial investment firm. Today the sky is a clear, clear blue. There is not a cloud in the sky.

Just after 8:30 AM my husband calls from work – downtown Toronto. “You may want to turn the TV on. They’re saying a plane flew into one of the Trade Towers in New York.”

“What?! Do you know what kind of plane?”

I turn on the TV. Voices sound strained. Details chaotic. Before too long – I discover not only did a plane fly into one of the Towers, but it was commercial passenger plane.

I am fixated on the TV coverage of this bizarre event. Just after 9:00 AM another commercial plane rips into the second Tower. Right before my eyes. I’m horrified. I let out a sound that I can’t even describe. My kids busy with morning activity and fun are not comprehending my stress. “Can you watch some kid TV upstairs?” Tearful, I usher them up into our bedroom and the comfort of the ‘big bed’ and try to get them settled.

I call my husband and tell him that I watched a second commercial plane fly into Tower 2. I’m crying.

As the day unfolds, I try to make sense of what is happening. What was to happen? How many planes? How many people? Would there be retaliation?

I keep a rough pen scrawled count of fight #’s and passengers lost on our calendar. It’s Tuesday, September 11. There is no more room in the calendar date box for more details. Please… no more details.

The kids don’t understand why I am crying so much, but know that I’m sad. My husband heads home early from work, but he takes the train transit system and it is now clogged with the chaos of people trying to get home. “Please… be home soon.”

For days and weeks after September 11, I stay up late watching the news for anything… anything that would help me make sense of what happened that day. I find no real answers. A life is very small and fragile and can be brushed away rather quickly. That vulnerability makes me anxious. For me. For everyone.

What was going through Samuel Barber’s mind when he composed Adagio for Strings that sweeps people away – so movingly. I want to know.

For years before I had children, I flew all over Canada for work. I was on the road a lot. Flying became second nature and I often fell asleep before the plane left the tarmac. During that period, I would often have dreams about passenger planes. I was usually in them, but not always. I would often wake up as we entered nose dives or flew impossibly under bridges. In my mind I kept saying, “Planes-going-where-they-should-not-go. Planes-going-where-they-should-not-go.” After September 11 – I stopped having those dreams.


It’s fall 2009. Before my husband prepares to take our sailboat out of the water for yet another season – he invites his brother and father for a week-long sojourn on Georgian Bay. It’s Friday before the weekend and I’m at home with the kids. It’s dark. My mother calls from Nova Scotia. “I’m afraid I have bad news. You’re father died earlier today.”

It’s September 11, 2009. I have no answers.

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. I can’t believe, I just now found your ‘reply’ sitting there. Thank you for your kind words – on this day. September 11, 2017

    September 11, 2017
  2. Beautiful. I could hear the music playing through my head as I read your post. Music has a way of touching so many emotions that can’t be spoken any other way. September 11 is a day that profoundly impacted us all. Thanks for sharing your story:)

    September 12, 2012
    • I can’t believe, I just now found your ‘reply’ sitting there. Thank you for your kind words – on this day. September 11, 2017

      September 11, 2017

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