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The Rising: Responding to Tragedy

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Written by Michelle Croak

"Springsteen asks those of us who love his work nothing more and nothing less than he asks of himself. 'What are you going to do about it?'" -Dave Marsh

Tragedies are all around us. Some are large, while some are small: the death of a family member, unemployment, a failing grade. Who do you turn to when such a tragedy strikes? A close friend? A family member? A stranger? After the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Centers, an inconceivable tragedy for many, no one seemed to know where to turn. There were no easy answers, no solutions. Some turned to religion, some turned to revenge, and some turned to forms of art. Bruce Springsteen's album The Rising was one of those outlets, and it covered the tragedy with unmatched delicacy and insight.

As with most Bruce albums, songs on The Rising appear to have dual meanings. Many of them can be applied to a personal relationship. The beginning of "Lonesome Day," "You're Missing" and "Empty Sky" are just examples of this. As with many Springsteen songs, things are not always as they appear on the surface. Looking deeper, you can see that many of these songs are applied to the tragedy of 9/11. I will now describe "You're Missing," which was tough for me to pick, as The Rising is easily my favorite Bruce album.

"You're Missing," the 12th song on the album, is a ballad about the experience of loss. Everything is the same in the house, with objects, people and situations being the same, except for that someone or something. It is inspired by Bruce's conversation with a widow from 9/11, and you can feel the pain she is feeling throughout that song. She is reminded at every turn that her husband is not there anymore, but she must survive through his loss. This is where Bruce begins to challenge us. People make the world around us, but we don't always realize how much until they're gone. Would you appreciate those around you more if you knew they'd be missing tomorrow? Bruce's challenge defines what he is all about. As Marsh quotes, this song tests how you live your life. You can't change your past or the events that happened in it, but you can change how you deal with it from now on.

When we got in this discussion throughout class, we had a variety of answers to questions of how we were affected by it. We had kids like me from a small suburb in the Midwest and we had kids who were in the heart of the tragedy in New York City. Although our experiences were all different, we recognized the emotions and actions shown that day as universal. That's the beauty of tragedy: even when the world around you is falling apart, you find that you and your neighbor have something in common you may have never found before. Tragedy is the one event throughout history that has never failed to bring people together, no matter race, religion or beliefs. The Rising plays off of this idea. Bruce had to consider how people would come together during this tragedy, yet he wanted them to move on together. "You're Missing" helped people realize that they are not alone in their tragedy. Whether it's their neighbor or a stranger half way across the world, someone is feeling their pain.

The Rising was meant as healing words towards the victims, their families and all Americans after the tragedy of 9/11. It was received so well, from people affected by the tragedy and music critics alike, and still remains one of the best albums of the 2000s to this day. It calls upon the sadness of the events of that day and asks you, "What are you going to do about it?" Today, even if you don't have a tragedy to gather around and you're looking for a little inspiration. Turn on The Rising. It's amazing what a little faith and Bruce Springsteen can do for you.

Michelle Croak is an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who has not yet decided on a major. A social media fanatic and sports enthusiast, she has been a "Bruce fan since birth."