For the past few weeks, I’ve been posting YouTube videos of obscure and forgotten hits from previous decades on my personal Facebook page. This week’s selection, Lovely Day by Bill Withers, deserves some explanation. It’s the twelfth anniversary of 9/11, which started out as a lovely day in Little Rock, where I lived in 2001. It’s rare for the weather in New York and Little Rock to be exactly the same, but it was a cloudless day there as well. The stiffling, sticky heat of summer was gone. It made the air feel lighter. People want to get out on a day like that, but instead I sat in front of the TV, just like most Americans did. Such an ugly thing wasn’t supposed to happen on such a lovely day.
At lunchtime, I needed to be around other people, so I walked a couple of blocks to the River Market, which was a small food court in a restored old building. I took my lunch outside to one of the tables under a big pavillion where a farmers market is held on Saturdays. On a sunny day like this, all the tourists and office workers out there would sound like a flock of birds chattering. But there were only a few tables occupied by small groups of people with stunned expressions, speaking quietly. I wondered if my face looked like that and I thought, “This is all wrong. It should be cold and cloudy on a day like this. The weather should match everyone’s mood.”
I worked in the Stephens Building. At 40+ stories, it’s the second-tallest building in Arkansas. It was evacuated and I had an unpaid day off. That night was cool enough to have the windows open in my loft apartment at a busy intersection downtown, where the Main Street Bridge crosses the Arkansas River. The quiet that night on the normally busy street was surreal. A car passed once every fifteen or twenty minutes. Remember, this was before Facebook and Twitter. If you wanted to know what was going on, you had to watch TV. CNN and all the major networks had live coverage. We were all joined together by the common experience of watching and worrying.
Fast forward to the Concert for New York City. It was a fund-raising event for New York and a much-needed pep rally for everyone, featuring performances by musicians and speeches by New York’s finest and bravest. The nation was united in a way I haven’t seen before and certainly not since. The anger and sadness were palpable. Some of the performances touched my soul.
They showed a video that I’ve thought of countless times since then. It showed New Yorkers going about their day. Some of them were smiling. It showed the diversity and character of the city. Watching it that night, I was lifted up by it. I realized New York was going to be OK. The country would be OK, too. I thought the choice of Lovely Day was perfect for it. I was in junior high in the late 70s when it was a hit. At the time, I thought it was just OK, with no strong opinion of it. Thanks to that video, I love the song.
I invite you to stop what you’re doing and watch this. Turn off all the TV, the stereo, and ignore all the noises from your smart phone. Yes! You can do this for the five minutes and 28 seconds it takes to watch this video. Pay attention to it. Let yourself be uplifted by it.
UPDATE: The video I wanted to share is now blocked, which is a sad thing because it could have uplifted so many. I could view it a few days ago when I wrote this post and embedded the video, so the decision to block it was made in the past few days. Here’s another video of Lovely Day so you can at least hear it. Maybe they will make the other vedeo available again in the future.