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Sounding Our Grief

By: Erin Salez
Category: Therapeutic
Population Served: Others

Over the past couple of weeks, a variety of forwards have been flooding our email in-boxes with well wishes for the world. One such forward had a great impact on me, it goes as follows:

"As we mourned together the great loss We became one family. As we cried tears of grief and loss, We became one soul. As we retell with pride of the sacrifice of heroes, We become one people..."

These sentiments accurately describe the experience shared by the many community members who attended the "Drumming in Memoriam and Unification" event at California State University, Northridge (CSUN) on September 20th.

The idea to hold such an event came from Professor Ronald M. Borczon, Director of Music Therapy at CSUN as he noticed many of the students on campus were having a difficult time coping with the events of September 11th. With immediate support from Remo, Inc and the University faculty, the idea became a reality in five days.

In an amazing show of the human spirit, we were joined by members from not only the music department on campus, but staff, faculty and students from all over CSUN as well as community members from the North San Fernando Valley who came to take part in this unique event.

The first segment of the evening emodied the memoriam. In a moving and somber tribute, each member of our community received a card with the name of the forty-eight Californians killed on one of the airliners or in the Pentagon. And with a basic heartbeat guiding us on a drum, we began to beat the rhythms of the names on our drums, creating a sound tribute to our lost Californian family.

The second segment embodied unification. A large communal drum table became a powerful symbol of Diversity and Unity as individuals from eighteen different cultures gathered around to lead the larger group. Given the task of creating a pulse, they started out all playing something different, but within a minute, something remarkable began to happen. These people, of all different colors, shapes, sizes, and ideas began to play together in one beat. Over the next ten minutes, the beat evolved and changed without any of the 18 people having to say one word.

Complete strangers, perhaps because of their closeness around the drums, or possibly because of a stronger force, were able to memorialize, unify, communicate, express emotions, grieve and give a piece of themselves in honor of our heroes.

At the end of our tribute, I reflected and noticed that as we mourned together around our drums, we did indeed become one family; when we cried our tears and expressed our grief and feelings of insecurity and helplessness, we did become one soul; and as we retold, in music, the sacrifice of many heroes, we became one people.

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