I just finished singing in the Bellevue Rolling Requiem. What a difference from a year ago. Then I had just finished writing a weblog update and had gone into the library to study. Starting up my web browser to download some course notes, I hit the message on Yahoo (images weren’t loading) that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. I went looking for more information and found it at Scripting News. Shellshocked, I left the library and walked into the lobby of E-52, Sloan’s main building, where I joined a gathering crowd of students, faculty, administration staff, and others watching the coverage. I saw the videos, and I saw the second tower go down on live TV as I watched. After a while I walked next door to the E-51 lobby, worried about my friend Kate’s fiancé Oli who worked in the financial district. I ran into my finance professor, who was just coming out of class and had no idea what was happening. I told him that both towers had come down and the Pentagon had been hit. “Oh my God,” he said, as if he had been slapped. I found Kate. At the time she hadn’t heard from Oli (he was fine). We just sat and watched and listened.
Today singing the Requiem I really didn’t think about any of that, just the time I used to spend, lonely from the isolation of my fourth year studies, hanging out in Doug’s dorm with the man now known as Tin Man and some Glee Club friends. Many hands of spades were played, much laughter was had. And I couldn’t believe that this life, and so many others, had been taken.
The Mozart Requiem differs from all other Requiem masses in one of two ways. Later Requiems such as Gabriel Fauré’s close on a note of hope. Earlier Requiems may close on a note of fear, prayer or penitence. Mozart’s Requiem closes on the same theme with which it began, having briefly gone through a dancelike Hosanna to return to the cosmic awe of the request to support the deceased in their new home beyond our knowledge: “Grant them rest, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.” It is pleading, angry, demanding.
And it’s not Mozart’s, not really. Mozart died while writing the Requiem (legend has it, after singing through the first bars of the “Lacrymosa”) and his pupil Süssmayer completed the mass by taking parts the master had already written together with new material to finish the sequence. The end result is we end the mass without closure, with our anger and confusion and grief still intact. Which is how I feel today, one year after 3,025 lives (what a ridiculously precise number) were taken from us. My only consolation is that I’ve spent so much of the last year thinking about the war, the erosion of our rights and liberties, the madness of unilateral war, and the insanity of suicidal terrorism, only to find today a way to give voice to my grief for those who died without other thoughts and voices drowning out the message.