This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001

11Sep/11

BRIAN HUGH O’NEILL: RISE

On September 11, 2001, Brian Hugh O’Neill was at home with his wife in their Hell’s Kitchen apartment, getting ready to begin another regular Tuesday morning, when he first heard the news. “My mother-in-law called to inform us that she had just seen on the news that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center,” O’Neill recalls. “I ran up on the roof to see if I could see anything, then went back to my apartment, never thinking for a moment that we might be under attack. When I saw, live on TV, the second plane hit, I knew then what was under way.” The actor (Law & Order, The Good Wife) and singer-songwriter (Free World) reacted the best way he knew how: He picked up his guitar and tried to deal with the tragedy through his music. “I wrote the song ‘Rise’ in the small hours of the morning of September 12,” he said. “After the horror of that day, as an artist and composer, I knew I needed to create something to express my confusion, heartbreak, and rage.” The beautiful track features a haunting synthesizer behind O’Neill on acoustic guitar, singing such lines as “It’s calm tonight / on Twelfth Avenue the sirens / and the red, red lights / have surrendered to the silence” and “Because these days / (I can’t explain it to myself) / I used to face it with my usual grace / That is before the sky fell / the sky fell.” The song is a family affair, featuring a closing aria sung by his wife, actress Tracy Sallows, and both Sallows and their daughter appear in the video, which was directed by Skipp Sudduth and timed to honor the tenth anniversary of the attacks. “The song was literally triggered by the smell of smoke from the burning towers finally making its way uptown that evening when the winds shifted, and it came very, very quickly after that,” O’Neill remembers. “Rise” can be downloaded for free here.

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