'Somebody Started Singing God Bless America'


Sept. 7, 2011

All this week, we're featuring reflections of local people on Sept. 11. Ilene Fischer is a playwright, comedian and television director who lives in Arlington. On Sept. 11, she was working in Los Angeles. She remembers watching the events unfold from a sports network on the other side of the country.

Playwright Ilene Fischer stands in her home in Arlington. (Jess Bidgood/WGBH)

My name is Ilene Fischer, I’m a playwright and television producer here in Boston.

I was one of those people who came to Boston for college and never left, except for a short stint in Los Angeles, which is where I was when the event occurred. And I was working at a sports network at the time, and so I called my manager and I said, “What do I do?” And she said, “Oh, come in.” We were taking the news feed from our news channel. You know, we were all kind of just in shock together, we had lost one of our crew guys who was in Boston for a wedding that weekend, and was on his way home.

There was a deck off the second floor, where it was dubbed the smoke deck, because that's where a lot of people went to smoke. And you could always see the airplanes flying into LAX, they would go two-by-two into LAX. And it was dead quiet, for days. And a bunch of us just went out there to get air one day, and somebody started singing God Bless America. And we all just started singing it, and it was like this weird, spontaneous moment of — we are completely helpless, and we all love this country, and we’re trapped in a sports network.

And it was a really disparate group of people, too, and someone started and we all joined in, and we all finished, and we all just kinda looked at each other, and just shared this really intense and beautiful moment that I never in my life would've ever guessed would happen on that lot.

It was quite a moment.

Ironically, I think there's been a lot of division since 9/11. I think we've divided into this whole ‘real America’ business. This sort of divide between city folk and country folk. The divide between the right and left is obvious. We've lost a lot of gray and gone to a lot more black-and-white. I think the vilification of Muslims is frightening. That embracing of everybody was so beautiful and then it started to break apart. I’d found that the divisions to be heartbreaking in this country.

The planes left from Boston, they were on their way to L.A., and it was one of several, it was like the first sort of sign that I took internally that pointed me back here. Cause there was that uncertainty, are we going to war? Who are we going to war with? Who did this? What's the bigger picture here?

And it made me question where I belonged.  

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