9/11 Tribute - From Personal Journal

The Day the Loons Made No Songs

Text and photographs copyright © Mike Colclough, all rights reserved. No part of it may be reproduced in any way without written permission.

September 11, 2001 - 6:00 p.m.
Center Harbor, N.H.

I've just returned from a boat trip to pick up a newspaper and some bread. The newspaper is the Laconia Citizen with the headline, "Double Disaster - Terrorist Act?" It was the only one carrying the new headline.

I saw only two others at the town docks, pulling a boat out of the water. The only signs that something is wrong are silent. Along the shores of the lake, I noticed American flags outside boathouses, flying at half-mast. The signs outside the local establishments which only last night said, "Thanks for a great season," now read:

-"Pray for those lost today"

-"God bless America"

-Your country needs your help - donate blood."

Skies are clear and it's a great day for scenic flights. Yet the skies have been clear of all but the seagulls and ducks today - no airplanes at all. I looked over toward Laconia Airport, where I might normally see planes taking off or landing. Today the airspace to the west of the Belknap Mountains is clear. I haven't heard the sound of a propeller in the air nor a sound of a jet far overhead, since yesterday.

The loons have not called out all day today, nor have the seagulls even cried from the reef . This has left the lake strangely quiet. Most boaters are gone for the season, airplanes are forbidden to fly, autumn is setting in. Only the chilly northwest wind, and the waves it made on the water, has made any noise today aside from the TV broadcasts I've been watching.

The TV now shows the last light of day shining on the tops of the buildings in New York while smoke still rises from the ruins of the World Trade Center. It's been a most unusual day, one in which I've heard from more friends and family than I've ever heard from in a single day of living here. I still have more to call, as it has turned into a national day of calling friends and family, of finding out who's thinking about you and returning the favor to those you think about.

The lake shore is now dark and silent with the exception of the continuing news reports and a couple of crickets outside.

September 12, 2001 - 1:00 a.m.

Strangely, the loons have made no songs tonight. Outside is just the chirp of a cricket or two, and the lapping of the waves against the shore. The sky is about as clear as it ever gets, except for maybe the coldest nights of mid-winter, and the stars are uncountable.

Normally, in them I might see the flashing red and white lights of an airplane every few minutes, but tonight there are just the stars. No radio station is playing any music; it is all newscasts with pauses for station identification.

Tonight I've left the TV off for a few minutes of quiet before going to bed. In my head are the memories of today's events--even though they didn't happen here--and the prospect of seeing their more direct effects on life in the days and weeks to come. My only desire is to stay here, to watch and listen to the water I learned to swim in as a child.

The radio stations would not put a song in my head, and they still won't as I go to sleep. Not even the loons will give a song for the night. There are only the crickets, and the lapping of the water against the shore.

10:50 a.m.

The sound of a single loon calling out was my wake-up call this morning. Within a few minutes I heard a few others respond. The sky is clear blue, temp bottomed out at 57 overnight, and winds dropped off to calm. As the cleanup and recovery effort in New York and Washington begins, the lake remains quiet. The only greater stillness I've ever seen on this water came on late-November days when the air was cold enough to drive away even a few local residents.

11:15 p.m.

Music has returned to the Lakes Region. As I write this, one of the stations is playing "God Bless America" by request. The radio stations are sticking to songs of love, inspiration, and patriotism.

Today I went into town again to get the mail (none,) buy a newspaper (sold out,) and to check my email (many more messages than normal.) Today it is more evident that the national tragedy has hit the residents of the lake. More people are out and their conversations all reflect a subdued tone, if not direct mention of yesterday's events.

Along the shores it's easy to tell which houses are occupied by permanent residents, which belong to weekenders, and which ones are summer homes only. The flags of the occupied homes are all at half-mast, the weekend homes have flags left out at full mast, and the summer homes are closed up with empty flagpoles.

As many people shout cries of war, and as the sun set behind the Squam Mountains, faded to orange, then red, purple and dark blue, I found myself hoping that the decision-makers in this country can find the right way.

Tonight isn't as chilly as last night, and so more crickets are chirping than last night. The skies overhead are still silent, as the ban on flying continues. The night sky, for a second night in a row, is clear and starlit.

It's good to hear the music again. From listening to the radio I can tell how the lyrics of almost any song they're playing could have significant meaning to many people. Tonight, unlike last, the songs of the loons went out across the flat water of Lake Winnipesaukee at sunset. They relayed around the islands and echoed between the shores in a series of long calls and short chatters.

Since the beginning of civilization, we have always gathered around music of some sort. Even today, in all situations, we can never move on without a song.