Let us lead with compassion,
Let us love with grace,
Let us listen- these are choices we make.
Let us be guided by kindness and grace.
Let us be good, for goodness' sake.
Growing up a theate fan in Washington (now Idaho) the moment I first went to New York will always be a sacred memory for me. My mother I stepped out of the subway and it was rainy, a car honked at a biker, who yelled some profanity back and it was somehow exactly what I thought it would be like, and nothing like it at the same time. It was late Novemeber, 2016.
Now, this general period of time was strange for a lot of reasons, I need not remind you why. But it was actually a lovely trip! People were kind. I got to see Lady Liberty which was special because my grandmother immigrated through Ellis Island. Our first Broadway show, Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812, felt like a homecoming of sorts. It was when we returned the next March we had problems. I had moved to Idaho, which was (and still is) draining my soul, and when I looked at our options, the season seemed troubling. Three shows featured someone preying on a grieving family who's already lost so much, 75% of the best musical nominees featured men, in two who were supposed to be the heroes, manipulating the situation and people around them to get what they wanted- usually sex.
I planned every detail of our trip. I call it "liking things to be in their proper place". My doctor calls it "anxiety". My mother, a wonderful and patient woman who is very good at just going along with the flow, had made little input, so I pressed her, and I asked what show she wanted to see. She timidly suggested Come From Away, so I got online and I ordered tickets. I didn't know really what to expect, I'm too young to remember 9/11 and I usually try to avoid media of a show and... I cried. It was that rare show where in that moment of static between the fade of the last note of the finale and the orchestra revving up for curtain call, you could hear sniffles from all across the audience. Not a single person was left behind when the rest of us went to Newfoundland, we were all there together, another load of strays that Gander took in.
It didn't matter that I don't remember that inital fear and shock when 9/11 happened. It didn't matter that all my memories were from the after world, none from before. Because at it's heart, Come From Away isn't about 9/11. The bad guy is not Saddam Hussain. There is no versus. It's just strangers helping other strangers and expecting nothing in return. Which I've been informed by my aunt, who is Canadian, a friend of mine who is Canadian, and two women from Toronto my mom met at work, is just the Canadian way.
And when I got home, my home was bleeding. It felt like more days passed with a tragedy than without. I was just numb, waiting for the next one, hoping it wouldn't be where my cousins went to school or parents worked. Taking my phone with me to the bathroom and reading the news alerts, with the counts of the dead and injured just climbing every time, trying not to cry. It was easy to feel frightened. It was easy to feel alone.
But I never was. Because I had my iPod, and I had the Come From Away soundtrack. It became my soundtrack for months, a reminder to be endlessly kind, as I softly wept for the dead and dying into the title policies I was sorting. A reminder to listen to other people's stories, to look out instead of in, and to earn respect by showing it first... It was a lesson I'm glad to earn.
I haven't been back to see the show since I first went, but I know one day I will. And I know what it'll feel like, it feel like unlocking a door, taking your coat off after a long day, and settling with a beloved friend, like a book, an editoral board you and a bunch of your friends run, or a rewatch of your favorite series on Netflix. In short, it'll feel like coming home.
(Photo by Matthew Murphy)