Sept. 11, 2001

Published: Tuesday, September 11, 2001 St. Paul Pioneer Press Archives

In the wake of attack, 'business as unusual'

by Jim Walsh Pop Music Critic

Shortly after 11 a.m. Tuesday, I stood outside a classroom at my daughter's pre-school, talking to a mom who had come to school early to pick up her daughter. "I just want to touch my girl," she said.

Another was crying. The red in her eyes matched the red in her "I Voted" sticker she wore over her heart. She was worried about her husband, who was in transit from his job. Others talked about Pearl Harbor, revenge, racism and what to tell their kids.

I put on some music. Specifically, I put on U2's "All That You Can't Leave Behind," the record that has offered me more guidance in the last year than anything else I've heard or read. I went straight to track eight, "Peace On Earth," and started driving.

"Heaven on earth, we need it now," sang Bono. "I'm sick of all of this hanging around/Sick of sorrow, sick of the pain/Sick of hearing, again and again, that there’s gonna be peace on Earth."

As the acoustic guitars padded away and the organs chimed, a surreal sight flooded my windshield on this, the morning of International Peace Day: An electronic marquee on a freeway overpass screaming, "Mall Of America Closed." The faces of the few other drivers around me looked waxen. For miles I looked for smiles, a sign of one soul who had not been ruined by the morning's events.

"Jesus could you take the time to throw a drowning man a line/Peace on earth," sang Bono; "Tell the ones who hear no sound/Whose sons are living in the ground/Peace on Earth."

I got off the freeway and parked by the side of the road to listen and watch. A woman worked on her garden. A man delivered flowers to a house. A jogger dodged a FedEx truck, a woman strolled her baby, a couple punk rockers sat outside a coffee shop, the sun was out. Business as unusual.

"No one cries like a mother cries for peace on Earth," sang Bono as a bright yellow school bus tooled by. "She never got to say goodbye, to see the color in his eyes, now he's in the dirt/That's peace on Earth."

I started driving again and found myself heading towards the church I grew up in, the one I spent so many years half-praying in, the one I hadn't been to in years. When I got there, it was as quiet as the city streets were eerie. I sat down in a pew near the back, and then did what an older woman, the only other person there, was doing: Got on my knees.

Back in the car, Bono sang, "Jesus this song you wrote/The words are sticking in my throat/Peace on Earth/Hear it every Christmas time, but hope and history won’t rhyme/So what's it worth, this peace on Earth?"

When I got home, I turned on CNN, turned down the sound, and turned up the music. The TV screen was crippled with chaos and Bono, whom some of my friends hate because they think he's an egomaniacal do-gooder, was singing about it. I was glad to have him.

"They're reading names out over the radio/All the folks the rest of us won't get to know/Sean and Julia, Gareth, Ann and Breda/Their lives are bigger than any big idea."

Great song. Again, it's called "Peace On Earth." I played it at least 30 times today, and it wasn't nearly enough, because to my way of thinking, it should be coming out of on every radio station in every corner of the globe, 24 hours a day for the rest of whatever we call our lives.

Pop music critic Jim Walsh can be reached at [email protected] or (651) 228-5553.

Hello Jim,

I just read your "In the wake of attack, 'business as unusual'" article, and I got the urge to thank you for realizing the greatnes of Bono, and his songs.

Jasmina Kos from Kutina, Croatia

I just wanted to let you know that I received an email that you had written about the attock in New York. I got it the day after it happened ( I think) my days are running together lately. I have to say thank you. After I read it, I turned off the news and put on that wonderful U2 song and I suddenly felt better. I don't know why I didn't do it sooner, U2's music has helped me through so many hard times in the past 20 years that I've been a fan. I just wanted to you know that you helped me. I know you don't know me, but that email was wonderful. It's hard to come to grips with what has happened, but at least as long as the U2 music plays I hold out hope for the future.

Thank you, Susan Zarit

P.S. Please feel free to email me anytime.

dear sir, I have just read your story on the disaster in new york and you captured my feelings exactly. When I was first told about the attacks at work, i started singing 'peace on earth' to myself for the rest of the day, unfortunately I did not have bono's voice to comfort me in the wave of shock that passed over the whole world.

I too, feel that the world should be listening to this song, especially the groups that are declaring war. i may live in a thousands of miles away but all my family are scared by the thought of war, especially my sister who is currently studying WW2 in school.

Anyway, I just felt had too write to you after reading your article as it was so identical to how i have been feeling this past week. I was just glad I found someone else who has found comfort in the words and music of u2.


Karina Mcadam (18) Scotland [email protected]

Hello, my name is Joanne Kendrick, and I have just this second read your piece about the New York terrorist attacks, and how you played U2's 'Peace on Earth' nearly 30 times. As I was reading it I was listening to the song - by pure coincidence. I would just like to say that you were exactly right about the song - i even put it on repeat to listen to it once more.

I'm from the UK, and everyone I know has been affected by what happened in America. Lets just hope something like this never happens again.

All the best, Jo Dear Mr. Walsh,

I'm writing from Calgary, Canada. We too have been deeply shaken by the attacks in New York and Washington. Like you, I turned to music. I spent the whole day with tears in my eyes and when it came to the time when I was finally going to bed I laid down with my headphones on and listened to 'Peace On Earth' in the dark and finally cried. It was intensely theraputic and I agree that this song should be coming out of every radio station in America because there is a lot of sorrow, pain, fear and rage in the hearts and minds of people...something is needed to comfort all our souls.


Cameron Ansorger

Tremendous spirit Jim. I'am a Pastor and U2 fan, and yet this is probably the most beautiful way of expressing what has just happened. That song should be playing on every radio station around the world. Bono first and foremost knows that Jesus is our only hope in times like these. Nothing else makes any sense. I hope many lives are touched through this article. I also hope Bono reads it and sees how prophetic that song is for now. Again thanks and Blessings and Peace on you and everyone who needs God's comfort and prayers at this time. Love, Dan

Jim, I don't know who you are but, I just wanted to tell you that the piece you wrote on was really good to hear. I myself drove around yesterday, however listening to Sunday Bloody Sunday and just weaping. I find myself drawn to their lyrics at this point in time even more than before. I just had to let you know that it was nice to hear of someone else absorbing their music as we try to make some kind of sense of all this terror. a fellow fan, Patsy

Just wanted to thank you for the thoughts about "Peace on Earth", as if the song was written for this week.

All the best,


Hallo! I just wanted to say I really liked and appreciated your article on tuesdays tragedy and how U2's peace on earth helped you through it. I am in toronto canada, so I was not as deep in the thick of it as you were but by the end of the day I started singing If God Will Send his Angels (or at least what I could remember of it)from POP and with out even thinking put on Dirty Day from Zooropa. I was surprised when I listened to the lyrics, that that song was what I instictevly chose to put on. "Looking for explinations/I don't even understand/if you need someone to blame/throw a rock in the air/you're bound to hit someone guilty" Anyway its nice to know that someone else soothes their malaides with music... Thanks and god bless...


"Bless those who play like children. May they infect all those who doubt."

How eloquently you picked the right phrases and how fitting they are to this particular incident. I see now that we, in America, have been so insulated that we thought it couldn't happen here. I cannot fathom the hate that these people have for us. I am stunned still. I know growing up in Ireland has been quite a different life than we are used to. I see now, unfortunately, how violence and ignorance, and overzealousness can be deadly. It is so sad. I keep saying that. But I know nothing else to say. I feel so heavy. I am so glad we have bands like U2 to ease the pain a little. I am going to listen to my c.d.s now. I am far away from New York and I still don't feel that safe. In fact I live about a mile from Barksdale AFB where Bush was brought yesterday on his way back to DC. I hope that we can have peace on earth too. Sincerely, Tammy Harris Thanks for your article.

The most intelligent comment, one of the very few intelligent comments, I've heard, spoken by a survivor from the 80th floor, on either CNN or the BBC, or whatever other channels we get here in Singapore, which to my way of thinking they ought to be broadcasting world-wide 24 hours a day while they've got everyone's attention and people are so stunned they just might be willing to listen to sense for a change: "We have to figure out how to get along better than this. This is an unacceptable reality." Peace on earth.

I am a lifetime NYer

Your article touched me. The song has never been more poignant or appropriate. I'll be sure to blare it on my stereo tomorrow, i'm sure like you have done - many times Thanks


Dear Jim, I am so sorry to hear what has happened to your country, our thoughts and prayers from Australia and around the world are with you all through this difficult time.

It's hard to know quite what to say, I read your article on a U2-mailing list today and my heart feels so heavy for you all. Please know that we are praying for "peace on earth" in your country and the rest of the world.

Please take care and may God bless and protect America and all those seeking shelter from terrorism.

Our deepest condolences

Christine Ward

Mr. Walsh, My name is Casey Forrester. I live in Atlanta and an internet friend forwarded your article "In the Wake of Attack, Business as Unusual" to me today. I also listened to a couple of U2 songs all day yesterday, namely Peace on Earth and If God Will Send His Angels. You've expressed my thoughts exactly. I just wanted to thank you for your article.


I was linked to your column from a U2 fan site (, and was really, really touched by your piece on the recent terrorist bombings. You echoed my sentiments quite precisely, and I must say for the first in a great while I was visibly moved by something I had read. Thanks, and "peace on earth,"

Matt Colman Los Angeles, CA Jim,

I came across the wonderful writing you submitted via I am from the Philadelphia, PA area, and a local radio station WMMR (93.3) played a remix version of Peace on Earth earlier today. The song is intertwined with sound bytes of the tragedy that we all experienced yesterday and will continue to experience for a great many days ahead.

I am a big U2 fan and share, with you, the relevance of that beatiful song along with so many they have written over the years. Thank you for your thoughts!



I just wanted to let you know that I have read your article and have found it to be very powerful. Like yourself, "..."All That You Can't Leave Behind," the record that has offered me more guidance in the last year than anything else I've heard or read." I work in Baltimore, MD and there was panic in the city yesterday as all over the United States. I still cannot believe that 3 major buidlings have been leveled and the pentagon partially destroyed. To see a plane fly into one of the towers is almost unreal. Almost a scene from a movie, but it's real. This is too real.

U2 is a spiritual guide and leader for all listeners. They "elevate" all us. Whether people like them or not, their lyrics are very powerful. I don't know if this is going to make much sense, but I wanted to contribute something in response to your article.

Thank you, Kevin

I agree. Never in my short lifetime have I been faced with something like this. I've always been inspired by the passion in U2's music...and now for the first time I can truly relate. I want to do something. I want to help. Bono has always been a role model for me. I feel it now. I'm trying to organize my own recording session for local bands here in Omaha, Ne. It isn't much...but I bet we could raise some money for the people of New York. Maybe we could inspire as well.........

Thank you so much for putting into words what I have not been able to say. I too scanned ahead to Peace on Earth in my car this morning as I took my son to school and the words have never had more meaning. I had a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes, especially when I saw all of the American flags my neighbors have put up. Peace on Earth and Sunday Bloody Sunday have always been identified in my mind with the Irish "troubles" but they have both taken on a new meaning. "I can't belive the news today, I can't close my eyes and make it go away." That one line sums up what every American is feeling today better than any I can think of at the moment. I will NEVER forget where I was and what I was doing on September 11, 2001. That day also happened to be my 35th birthday. Nothing to celebrate. Thank you again.

Charlene Estrada Placentia, CAHallo. My name is Antonella. I'm not American, I'm Italian, but as a citizen of the world I have the heart broken. Since yesterday I'm watching tv, and I can't believe what I see... I'm a U2 fan, I read your article. Well, I know very well that song, and what you wrote led me to tears. I just wanted to tell you this, I needed to. For you it could have no importance, but I felt the need to tell you that you are right: everybody should listen to that song. God bless you Peace on earth Antonella

Thank you for writing that you were listening to this song. There will be no song long enough to sing the names of all who died yesterday and for days to come. I can only hope that Bono's words come true some day, that we will have peace. In the meantime, "Jesus can you take the time to throw a drowning man a line?" Thank you also for the "I believe in rock and roll". You write what is in my heart.

Regards, DocAnne, frequent poster to the U2 newsgroups and eternal hoper.


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