In the week of 9/11 each year, my thoughts always turn to “One Of Us” by Joan Osborne. Although it wasn’t written about that tragic day…“One Of Us” was written six years earlier, in 1995…it sums up my thoughts about that day better than any other song.
Each time I hear “One Of Us”, I imagine dust-caked firefighters risking their own lives to save the lives of others…police officers rushing in to work on their day off to do what they could to help the unfolding tragedy…paramedics battling to save as many lives as they could…and countless tales of individual heroism and sacrifice that never fail to humble me.
“One Of Us”, surprisingly, you might think, was written by Eric Bazilian of the rock group The Hooters. I mean no disrespect to that fine gentleman…anyone who can write great songs like “One Of Us” is perfectly OK in my book…all I mean is that if you were to go looking for songs like “One Of Us” in them, The Hooters probably isn’t the first place you’d visit.
The music is very simple. This is a song that’s carried by its wonderful lyrics…and, to be fair, Joan Osborne’s superb delivery of them.
Whilst I’m not an especially religious person, I very much like the message contained within “One Of Us”.
Often we think God’s “out there, somewhere”…some external factor that perhaps has an impact on our lives from time to time.
What Eric Bazilian does so beautifully is turn that concept around. What if God wasn’t “out there” but was actually a little piece buried deep inside all of us. Are we, in fact, carrying a little bit of the spirit of the Almighty around with us as we go about our daily business?
I don’t pretend to know the answer to that question. But I do know it’s an intriguing question to ask.
And sometimes having a moment or two to ponder unanswerable questions is a good thing. The truth is none of us knows the answer to everything. In fact there are things that not a single person in the world knows the answer to.
I quite like that. The world would be a much more boring and predictable place if everything was neatly tidied up, and there were no new answers to find.
Hopefully unanswerable questions aren’t asked of us in “life or death” situations like 9/11 all that often. Even people, like police officers and firefighters who train for situations like this never really know what they’ll do the first time they’re put in a situation of intense, life-threatening danger.
Goodness only knows what my reaction, or that of most other “civilians” would be. We’d all like to think that, should disaster strike, we’d be heroes and do our bit to save as many people as possible.
But I’ve seen enough people in less life-threatening situations, where the stakes were a good deal lower, bottle doing the right thing and take the easier path, slinking off into the shadows instead. I’ve got no reason to suppose the same dynamic wouldn’t apply in a 9/11 situation too — of course there would be heroes, but there would also be people who opt for self-preservation over looking out for their fellow human beings.
I’m not judging. For all I know, I might be one of them.
In an instant, when disaster strikes, we all make the best decision we can. If you weren’t there, don’t judge people who were. The opinions of armchair heroes don’t count for much.
What I do know, though, is that on 11th September 2001 disaster did strike. And so many brave men and women…trained emergency responders and ordinary human beings alike…did whatever they could, some making the ultimate sacrifice, to save lives in a situation of unparalleled catastrophe.
That day, there was definitely a little bit of the Divine in all those fine men and women.
That day, we knew the answer to this question…
What if God was one of us?
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Tryin’ to make his way home?
People just like us, ordinary mortals like you and me, brought a touch of the Divine that day.
They might have looked like firefighters, police officers or paramedics…or they might have been in normal office clothes, a janitor’s uniform or a hot dog vendor’s attire.
But all those heroes did their bit.
If God had a face, what would it look like?
And would you want to see if, seeing meant
That you would have to believe in things like heaven
And in Jesus and the saints, and all the Prophets?
None of us knows what God looks like, but I know for many people that day, the closest they ever came to God was the hand of a stranger reaching through the rubble to pull them to safety and return them to their loved ones.
It’s tempting to focus on the evil that day brought to humanity.
I prefer to focus on the good it brought.
In the end, good always wins over evil. And so it was that day, 17 years ago, too.
For me, there’s no better song to sum up the spirit that was in the air that life-changing day than Joan Osborne singing “One Of Us”. That day, God truly was “one of us”…a stranger we’d never met, until circumstances forced us together…
The video is below or, if you prefer, you can enjoy the song on Spotify here… https://open.spotify.com/track/7g5gZWKWTuS8N3OnM2g95g
PS — just before we get to the video, if you enjoyed this article, please give it a “clap”…or even more than one if you’re feeling kind. You can also follow me on Medium (here) or Twitter (here) to get new articles as soon as they’re published.