Students channel their inner poets to create post-Sept. 11 CD

Last fall, students at the University of Hartford in Connecticut were having a hard time discussing their feelings after the Sept. 11 attacks.

So instead, they put their emotions into words and music and recorded the CD, "A Ribbon of Hope." Songs from the group of 25 students articulate their disbelief, anger, sadness, and hope after watching the twin towers collapse.

The CD was released in April, seven months after the terrorist attacks. The students recently performed selections from the album on campus, drawing some 150 classmates. To date, they have sold more than 100 CDs.

Some students put their words into raps, accompanied by beat boxes; for others, a simple recitation of the poems they wrote in class was sufficient to get their points across.

The students' feelings range from initial shock ("America screams of hysteria, up in a cloud of smoke. Running through darkness, is this a sick joke?"); to end-of-day realizations ("As I lie in bed, thinking over the day, the skyline forever changed, but I remain the same."); to facing the fact that not all questions can be answered ("Kill the evil, America screams. But what about the future and the American dream? What is the name of those who are to blame?").

Junior Jesse Morgenstern wrote and rapped the title track. "Putting it down on paper let me express the things that, at first, I was a little afraid to say out loud; I got a great deal of grief off my chest during this whole process."

Evelyn Ch'ien, an assistant professor of English, helped coordinate the effort. When the attacks first happened, she decided not to stray from her syllabus. "A lot of the students lost friends, parents, or relatives when 9/11 happened," she says. She decided to wait until the students were willing to open up before trying to have a healing discussion about the events.

That time came in November, when her Introduction to Literature class wrote a series of poems about the attacks, and accompanied them with their own musical compositions.

The class worked with a Virginia CD company to record the album (reportedly the first spoken-word CD created about Sept. 11). It's available at www.cdbaby.com/cd/uofhartford.

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