|Let's Roll: Together in Unity, Faith and Hope|
Tony McAnany on
the creation of the Let's Roll album
So many times the simplest items pass us by and it takes a major event for us to notice the true beauty that surrounds us. I See You In His Eyes was the song that inspired the entire album.
On September 11, I was on my way to work when heard my wife calling out to come look at the television. As I turned on the TV, I, like so many others, watched the second plane hit the World Trade Center. I immediately fell back into my chair, dumbfounded. Soon after neighbors and friends were calling each other - to see if our friends and family were safe - schools in our New Jersey community called out to the households of parents that worked in New York City to check on their safety.
It was then I received a call from Axel Johnson, he said he thought our friend Todd was on one of the planes that crashed just hours earlier. My reaction was "no way, what are the odds of that." In the next hours are worst fears were confirmed, like so many people that day we told our friend, unbelievably had become a casualty of the worst terrorist attack on the United States in history.
Immediately, I was moved to consider Todd's sons - David and Andrew and their unborn sibling - how would they cope, how would they know their father, how were we going to help them and Lisa. So many emotions and questions.
I met Todd four and half years ago at our church. We were also members of a men's breakfast group that met every Friday at 6 am to share concerns, encourage each other, and be there in confidence to help each other no matter what the subject, study ways to handle life through our faith in God and the teachings of the Bible. There were six of us at that time. We also played baseball together, enjoyed family outings together, and just did what good friends do.
In May of this year bunch of us went on golfing trip. During that golf adventure I took a lot of photos. After hearing the news of Flight 93, I went back to those photos and started to notice all the photos of Todd, hanging with the guys, playing golf, and just having fun. Then I found a photo of Todd in a pro shop, we was smiling, and looking as he did full of life and happiness. I then made copies of that photo and the others and brought them over to Lisa as a small gift for her children to remember their Dad and hopefully I thought, when they get older appreciate his love for life and see a small part of who he was through these simple photos. When I gave the photos to Lisa, she closed her eyes and was moved. Unknowingly, that simple photo showed Todd in his favorite cap and windbreaker. And there he was as she said smiling the way she would always remember him.
Shaken by the moment and feeling a bit overwhelmed, I started to look around their living room at their family pictures moved by what I saw - in this new and tragic context everything looked different - the family pictures meant so much more. And all I could see was happiness, life and a true spirit of family. I kept that to myself and left the house quietly.
Soon Todd's memorial service was upon us. As the service proceeded it was evident that this humble man and friend was actually a great man. Testimony after testimony gave light to the strength of his faith, his commitment to family, his athleticism, his success in business, and his unwavering support of friends, and his leadership to the teens of our church. Through out the service various photos of Todd were presented, from childhood to the present day, and they all showed that same bright smile and love of life. Soon we were all in line to give our thoughts to Lisa. As we stood in line I saw that same hope and love of life in her eyes. Her strength and faith were in full effect, she was passing on to the rest of us little pieces of love that she shared with Todd and it was clear that God was with her. Then as I stepped away from the line I found little David falling onto my leg, he had been playing with uncles Axel, Brian and Doug and ran a little too fast a grabbed on to me to keep from falling.
As I looked into his smiling face I was struck by the image of Todd in him. All that love that he and Lisa poured out as parents, and just the plain look of Todd in was inspiring. And that was the moment that "I See You In His Eyes" was birthed.
Earlier that week Lisa had made plans to create the Todd M. Beamer foundation and had asked if I would write a song to pay tribute to Todd for the foundation. The experiences of the photo and memorial service coupled with the moving and emotional nights of meeting the rescue workers, firemen, and police in New York City where I work solidified the concept.
I then called a long time friend and wonderful artist and songwriter Nicole C. Mullen to ask if she would sing and collaborate on writing the song. She agreed and soon we were at work with her husband David Mullen on writing the song. In short order Nicole had been blessed with an amazing approach to the story line of I See You In His Eyes.
I See You In His Eyes
Specifically, The first verse speaks to a mother looking into the eyes of her child/children and seeing the spirit and life of a lost husband, the second verse focuses on the wife looking at a favorite photo of that lost spouse and seeing the love of her life and man of God, the bridge speaks to the heart of love given to all the rescue workers at the World Trade Center and Pentagon seen in there eyes. We all saw their determined hope and desire to save lives, find a friend, and in that we all saw the power and love of God. Regardless of particular brand of faith, these men and women were empowered by the love of God. And shared it with all of us.
After returning to my midtown studio from the area of Ground Zero - where like countless others, I walked from vigil to vigil, trying to comprehend the aftermath of the tragedy, mourning strangers and personally thinking of Todd, Lisa and the kids - I was given Let's Roll. I say it that way because the song came to mind as one thought, which is not normal for me. It was three am, I had been reading the Bible for encouragement and was overwhelmed with the picture of Todd along Jeremy Glick, Mark Bingham, and all of the other passengers on that plane, with all it's chaos, standing strong together as Americans, and as a people. How could they be so brave, how could they be so composed, how could they act so selflessly. Then I thought of the World Wars, Korea, Vietnam and our country's birth. The word's started to just come. The story behind Let's Roll is multilevel. One it is a rallying cry for all of us to remember how our country was born, under God. It is a song of comradery - the phrase "brother to brother" comes from talking with the fireman of the WTC - they speak to each other as "brother." Throughout the song we are pointed to our founding as a country - relying on the strength that comes from our faith in a loving God.
In a very specific way for me the song represents the lasts minutes of the flight. Americans, standing together, giving without prejudice, going for it, having faith in God by praying the Lords prayer.
Throughout each of our communities children of all ages are asking each other why did this happen, how could God let this happen, is there a God? This song is given, as a conversation between two of those kids, where one tells the other to be strong, be secure, in the reality that God is there. He loves us even though sometimes we can't understand why things happen the way they do - we can rest in His peace that passes all understanding. Put your trust in Him and he will give you strength.
Who Else Can It Be
Created for little Morgan Beamer - the daughter Todd would never know. This song asks a simple question that so many children ask that have lost a parent - are you there? They feel a presence but wonder is it you that was with me? With God present and the memory or stories of a loved one - who else could it be?
Light Of The World
Inspired by Psalm 4 this song speaks to the core of our desire to be loved and held in safety by God. To be surrounded by his comforting love, to be held in his arms, is all we need to be safe. So many of us have found a desire to be close to God as a result of the horror of terrorism and September 11. He is the Light of the world, put yourself in his arms and experience His joy.
When the sessions were being recorded a wonderful thing happened. All the musicians came together and performed in a special reverence for our country and fallen countrymen. This song was created in a moment of improvisation by two great guitarists.
When we met Wynonna to discuss performing on the album, she made it clear that she had felt a strange connection to Lisa Beamer and wanted to, in simple terms, write her a letter, from one sister to another. As she saw Lisa on TV she was moved by various thoughts - what a strong woman, how is this wonderful mother and housewife going to deal with the pressures of being a source of strength for the country, how must she miss the love of her life, and finally just a simple word to Carry On - we are with you, God is with you. Always remember that our hope is in what is unseen - in the eternal peace and hope of God.
Don't Ask Why
Over the course of the production of this album I have been moved by various emotions and events. But something that has really hit me hard is what it must be for people who lose their soul mates. On both sides of Heaven. This song speaks from the spouse in Heaven. And the message is simple - I will love you eternally. Because of God's love for us we can love each other no matter where we are. From heaven and with the grace of God you can be sure that I will always be by your side.
With New Eyes/We Give You Praise
Written 18 years ago by Ed Tack, an auto mechanic, father of six, and man of God. Ed led a quite and humble life, he cared for his children and wife with all of his heart. He spent countless hours praising God by playing his acoustic guitar, sitting on his favorite chair. He was an important part of my life from childhood sometimes filling the role of Dad, Uncle, Friend, coach, and teacher. One day I heard him playing "With New Eyes" and while I was not yet working in the music industry I knew that this simple melody was someday going to be important. Ed unfortunately died some years ago from Lou Gering's disease (ALS). It is my hope that his song will touch the world with its clear message of the beauty of God. In these uncertain and trying times these words poignantly speak hope, peace and joy - the attributes of the Holy Spirit's love for each of us.
The chorus that follows was added to Ed's refrain to further lift praise to God. As we might all do as a country and people. No matter how bad the tragedy we can all stand hand in hand praising a loving God.
Written by Jeremy Lubbock this composition speaks directly to all children throughout the world who might experience fear as a result of the tragedies and the various wars of our world. He so eloquently talks of the Angels that turn the darkness of night and bedtime into a time of beauty. Be at peace and don't fear - God is there with you always.
How Great Thou Art
A traditional hymn that speaks to the splendor of God and how our soul delights in His love. Presented here as an instrumental piece, this song represents the moments on that plane that Todd would have cried out to God, those moments where he put his trust in God, those moments where the greatness of God was bigger than the events on Flight 93.
The Lord's Prayer Suite
This collection of songs and interpretations hopefully will give glory and honor to the words of The Lord's Prayer. This prayer given to us by Jesus Christ himself teaches us the way to pray. In the context of United Flight 93 these words have gone beyond our normal view and have become in many ways a patriotic creed of forgiveness, surrender, trust, and praise.
I am inspired and moved by the last moments on Flight 93 where Todd and the other heroes recited the Lords prayer as to proclaim their unity as people under God and then took action. The individual movements each provide a unique emotional setting to reflect upon those events and our own choices as we proceed to carry on through life.
OUR FATHER, speaks to the reverence we might have as individuals for God's Lordship and Father like love. DAILY BREAD, performed by Phil Keaggy, Todd's favorite artist, sets a mood of trust and surrender for God to begin his work in us, and for us to quietly listen to Him as he speaks in still quiet voice. The LORD'S PRAYER is our call to unity. Performed by a collective of the most respected artists in inspirational music this piece goes beyond any boundary of style or genre. Including voices from all styles of music this piece is our representation of our Unity as Americans. Also featured are the men of the men's breakfast group, some of Todd's closet friends, Congressmen J.C. Watts and Tom DeLay, Majority Whip of the U.S. House of Representatives. TO YOU BE THE GLORY is an anthem of praise to God. It is our voice of unity telling God that we will trust his will in good or bad times we will allow his will to be ours, and we will glorify and praise Him for his love. The final movement of the suite IN HIS ARMS written by Jeremy Lubbock and performed by Yo Yo Ma was one of the most moving moments of the entire album for me. Jeremy, a dear friend and gifted composer, wrote this wonderful interpretation of the Lord's Prayer for Yo Yo to perform. When the three of us met in New York City to record the piece we didn't realize what we were about to experience. After Jeremy and Yo Yo discussed the technical and musical elements of the piece Yo Yo performed it. As the song passed by I saw in my mind what I would describe simply as the movie of the flight. I quickly spoke to Jeremy and Yo Yo of how the piece moved me and what I had seen as the music played: From the perspective of being on the flight: the start of the flight, the chaos of the terrorists take over, the subtle and instinctive internal reflection to God as the world went into slow motion, the fear of the unknown, the hope of faith through the reading of the Lord's Prayer, the strength of unity as the passengers took action against the terrorists, eerie silence of the crash, the majesty and glory of seeing God face to face, and finally the peace that comes from being safe in the arms of Jesus, safe in the wonder of Heaven, eternal happiness and peace with God.
As is the case in music, Jeremy had through his own sensitivities unknowingly created the chronology of the flight through music, and Yo Yo with amazing virtuosity and emotion lived those last moments of the flight through his cello. The performance you hear on the album was a single "take" with no edits. After the take was over only tears filled the air. There was no talking. We were all shaken by the experience.
It is our hope that you will always remember the great bravery, faith, and courage, of all the heroes of September 11, 2001 when listening to this album.
Back to Let's Roll - The Album