PRAYER FLAGS

PRAYER FLAGS

From Chicken Soup for the Soul of America

Prayer Flags

They were everywhere in my downtown New York neighborhood: countless flyers announcing those missing after the September 11 attack. Like many of my neighbors, I spent much time in silent and sympathetic contemplation of these heartrending pieces of paper. There were pictures of people just like me and my friends, cradling their newborns or standing proudly on their wedding day. Written on them were desperate and loving words penned in moments of almost unimaginable anguish by people whose husbands, wives or parents had simply not come home—or, maybe worse, who had called and said they were getting out and coming home but never did. The flyers reminded me of Tibetan prayer flags, flapping in the warm breeze. [Prayer flags (also called “wind horses”) are common in Tibetan Buddhism. Their purpose is to purify the air with the prayerful words written on them.] It was all almost too much to bear. And yet we, the neighbors and friends of these people, felt duty-bound to bear witness, to pay respect, to send love and light.

As I stood there, a simple and haunting melody came into my head, and the words I was reading practically flew off the page and rearranged themselves in stanzas in my mind. The next day I took off from work, booked an afternoon in the studio and recorded this song live.

Although “Prayer Flags” is a very sad song, I like to think of it as a healing song, and one that is very respectful to the people who helped it come to be—and to whom it is dedicated:

Prayer Flags

have you seen him
have you seen him
brown hair blue eyes 5 foot 10
have you seen her
here’s her picture
she’s my wife
she’s my best friend

have you seen her
have you seen him
he’s got a mole on his left hand
if you’ve seen him
here’s my number
please call as soon as you can

have you seen him
have you seen her
she’s wearing a yellow dress
a tattoo on her right shoulder
says baby I am the best

have you seen her
have you seen him
he’s wearing a wedding band
and the words on the inscription:
may 12, 2000, forever, ann

have you seen him
have you seen her
he was on the 100th floor
she’s my mother
he’s my brother
she called me at 9:04
from the stairway
from the hallway
from her cell phone
from the roof
if you’ve seen him
won’t you tell her
please
we love her so

have you seen them
have you seen them
walking in the by-and-by
from the rubble
through all the trouble
into the beautiful blue sky

Marc Farre

One mile from Ground Zero, the flyers that inspired “Prayer Flags.”

Photo ©2001 by Viviane Bauquet Farre. (9/15/01). All rights reserved.

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