October 5, 2001
My girlfriend and I live in an apartment three blocks from the World Trade Center. The day before it happened, I sat in the plaza at the base of the Towers, working on this really beautiful song called “Love Bird.” And it was such a beautiful day–the blue sky and the Towers, and all the people walking to and from work. I finished it at three in the morning in our apartment. Then we went to bed.
Erica and I were still asleep when the phone started ringing, and friends were saying that planes had crashed into the Towers. They were both burning, flames shooting out. I heard a man screaming and looked up, and there he was, falling. It was like he was swimming through the air, his tie flapping up around his head. And he landed on the median just in front of our grocery store. Firefighters immediately surrounded him, pushed him onto a gurney and carried him off. There are a lot of images I don’t think I’ll ever be able to erase, but that was the worst.
We discussed the potential for the buildings to collapse, and both of us thought, There’s no way! I started to make a bowl of cereal. Then we heard the first tower go down.
Smoke wrapped around from either side of the window, as if it were arms wrapping around our window, and the view disappeared. That was the moment when everything stopped being normal. We ran out our door. We were both wearing sandals. We abandoned our cell phones and ran down fifteen flights to the lobby, and it was full of smoke. There were bloody people pouring into it.
The building was filling up with smoke, soot and dust. We were breathing in chunks. Erica and I went down the staircase and pushed the door open. We walked out, and it was knee-deep in dust and rubble; you got the sense that people were underneath it. And there was no one anywhere. We were running.
When we got four blocks away, the second tower collapsed. Little smoking pieces of metal and glass started raining down on us. And we were in a river of people running alongside the East River. The moment I don’t think I’m ever going to erase is when Erica looked back at me and looked up at the tower, and I could see her looking at her own death. It’s hard not to sound melodramatic, but it was the kind of terror that I’ve never seen on anybody’s face, especially not on my most loved one. You just feel so powerless.
We used to joke, because the Wall Street area after six o’clock is like a graveyard. And now our whole neighborhood is a fucking graveyard. I don’t think we’ll ever spend a night there again. — Rhett Miller of Old 97’s
Let’s not end the story there though. Next time you see Rhett, congratulate him. Not only did he and Erica survive, better still is the unofficial word received here, which says they are now engaged to be married. So three cheers for Erica and Rhett, who now join the recently engaged Murry and Grey in helping soon make the Old 97’s an all-family-man band.
Also, at their recent New Orleans shows, the Old 97s were joined on stage by a camera crew and by cast members from Showtime’s series, Going To California. The reason? Well, the Old 97’s perform the title track from that series, and a (gulp) video was being taped.
You may be familiar with the tired old story of the supposed “feud” between the Old 97’s and former Whiskeytown frontman Ryan Adams. If the stories were ever true, they certainly aren’t any longer, as Rhett and the 97’s get a “thank you” in the liner notes of Adams’ latest solo album, Gold, and Ryan himself has been spotted at recent 97’s shows. Plus, Gold is one fine album. Check it out.
But you want new 97’s music don’t you? Cool, it’s out there. Robert Jenkins’ Summer Break Records has just released Sunny Teriyaki Hamburger Breakfast, a compilation from several Summer Break artists including Deathray Davies, Chomsky, Prescott Curlywolf, Pennywhistle Park, Calvert, Jetty Webb, Todd Deatherage, Sorta, HSL, Happiness Factor and Fury III. But the best part, for us, is that the S.T.H.B. compilation features the one-of-a-kind truck driving elegy, “Holy Cross,” an unreleased Old 97’s track from the Too Far To Care sessions, and “Sweet Thing Pine Bluff,” a beautiful unreleased gem from the Ranchero Brothers! Order yours today, and stay tuned to Hit By A Train for word on how you might win your own copy of Sunny Teriyaki Hamburger Breakfast.
Finally, the Old 97’s “Weightless,” makes an appearance on the soundtrack of the well-reviewed new thriller, Joy Ride. So help keep the economy moving and go to the movies! Take in a Joy Ride.