Bruce Springsteen performed at the World Trade Center plaza on Saturday during a memorial to mark the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Springsteen chose to play "I'll See You in My Dreams," a song from his latest album, Letter to You. Springsteen accompanied himself with guitar and harmonica. After he played the song, victims' families continued reading the names of the deceased, a tradition that began on the first anniversary of 9/11.
President Joe Biden and former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama also attended the ceremony. Biden, who will also visit the other sites of the attacks in Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon, did not speak. Instead, the White House released a video on Friday, in which Biden paid tribute to the victims and their families. "No matter how much time has passed, and these commemorations bring everything painfully back, as if you just got the news a few seconds ago," Biden said in the clip. "And so on this day, Jill and I hold you close in our hearts and send you our love."
After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Springsteen responded to the grief felt by the country with his acclaimed 2002 album The Rising. The album features the title track, "Mary's Place," "Lonesome Day," "Countin' on a Miracle," "My City of Ruins" and "Waitin' on a Sunny Day." "The Rising" was included in Springsteen's one-man show on Broadway.
A performance of "My City of Ruins" was included in the Sept. 21, 2001, broadcast America: A Tribute to Heroes, with members of the E Street Band. "The air was very charged," Layonne Holmes, who performed with Springsteen, recently told the Asbury Park Press. "People were aware of the gravity of the whole situation and for us in particular because we were first to perform. I remember the set being dark and there were all these candles and the cameras and then we were on."
"The Rising" is the story of firefighters who climbed the stairs at the Twin Towers to rescue anyone they could, but the lyrics also reflect their ascent to heaven. "One of the most powerful images of the 11th, that I'd read in the paper, some of the people coming down were talking about the emergency workers who were ascending," Springsteen said on Nightline after The Rising was released. "The idea of those guys going up the stairs, up the stairs, ascending, ascending. I mean you could be ascending a smoky staircase; you could be in the afterlife, moving on."
Springsteen's performance on Saturday earned positive reviews on Twitter. "That sad sound of a lonely musical instrument playing while names are being read at New York #911Anniversary is absolutely haunting. Thank you, Bruce Springsteen," one fan wrote. "I teared up at that point," another wrote.