THE BRAVEST
by Tom Paxton © 2001

This narrative account of the World Trade Center disaster achieves a rare combination of stark horror and spiritual transcendence. In performing it, we echo Tom's memorial to the heroic efforts of the members of FDNY who died on 9/11.

In singing this song, Sam dedicates it to Fire Captain William F. Burke of Engine 21. Having led his men into the North Tower, Captain Burke advised several companies that the South Tower had collapsed. As others evacuated, he remained behind to assist a quadriplegic man. Both were among those lost when the North Tower came down.

Vocals: Solo by Sam with backup by The Chorus
12-String Guitar: Eric

The first plane hit the other tower just after I got in.
It left a gaping, fiery hole where offices had been.
We stood and watched in horror as we saw the first ones fall.
Then someone yelled "Get out! Get out! They're trying to kill us all."

I grabbed the pictures from my desk and joined the flight for life.
With every step I called the names of my children and my wife.
And then we heard them coming up from several floors below,
A crowd of fire fighters with their heavy gear in tow.

Chorus:
Now every time I try to sleep, I'm haunted by the sound
Of The Bravest pounding up the stairs while we were running down.

And when they met us on the stairs, they said we were too slow.
"Get out! Get out!" They yelled at us - "The whole thing's gonna go."
They didn't have to tell us twice; we'd seen the world on fire,
So we kept on running down the stairs while they kept climbing higher.

We finally made it to the street; we ran through ash and smoke.
I didn't know which way to run; I thought that I would choke.
A fireman took me by the arm and pointed me uptown.
Then "Christ!" I heard him whisper, as the tower came roaring down.

Now I go to funerals for folks I never knew.
The pipers play Amazing Grace as the coffins come in view.
They must have seen it coming as they turned to face the fire.
They sent us down to safety, and they kept on climbing higher.

Chorus:
Now every time I try to sleep, I'm haunted by the sound
Of The Bravest pounding up the stairs while we were running down,
Of The Bravest pounding up the stairs while we were running down.