Monday, November 5, 2012

Was it a beautiful day?

I find that I often associate particular songs with particular places.

On July 25, 2000, I was visiting family friends in Switzerland. Although the family friends spoke English, the television usually did not. My command of the German language was mediocre, and my command of the French language at the time was non-existent. (Today, despite working for a French-owned company for over three years, it's not much better.) In fact, I recall that I was paying attention to the Italian language items because they were at least somewhat similar to Spanish, a language frequently heard in southern California. (And no, I didn't try to decipher Romansh - or Klingon.)

Despite the language barrier, I was able to deduce that something had gone horribly wrong in the airplane world. A Concorde, which until then had been one of the safest airplanes ever, had crashed:

The Air France jet, bound for New York, crashed into a Relais Bleu hotel in the town of Gonesse, 10 miles north of Paris just before 1700 local time (1500 GMT).

It is understood the aircraft, which had taken off from Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport just two minutes earlier, plummeted to the ground after one of the left-hand engines caught fire on take-off.

Some time later, after I had returned to the United States, I was listening to U2's new song. (Ironically, I had been listening to the Passengers album a lot while I was in Switzerland.) U2's new album took a turn away from the experimentation of the past decade, and returned somewhat to the band's earlier sound, with ringing guitars and earnestly sung choruses.

Actually, I wasn't listening to U2's new song - I was watching it. For, you see, U2 had released a video.

The most eye-catching part of that video was when U2 was performing on an airport runway, with planes flying overhead. And guess where that was filmed?

Scenes from CDG airport have been seen on album covers and in movies. The band U2 filmed the video for their song "Beautiful Day" at the airport just after the Concorde crash occurred. The Concorde was Air France Flight 4590 that was headed for New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport. The flight crashed in Gonesse, France on July 25, 2000. All passengers and crew as well as four people on the ground were killed.

Because the verses of the song were so melancholy, the staging of the video at that very airport seemed in some way appropriate.

But while I associate that song with the airport at which the video was filmed, David Churchill has a different association. Initially he also associated the song with Charles de Gaulle Airport:

In June 2001, my wife and I were lucky enough to have a four-day weekend in Paris, France. It was a magical trip that was great on almost every level....Upon my return, I managed to maintain those good feelings, at least once a day, by listening to U2's "Beautiful Day" off their All That You Can't Leave Behind album.

Churchill would play the song at work every day. As he put it, "I must have driven my work colleagues nuts." Apparently he didn't have headphones.

He continued this routine for a few months, until one day he arrived at work a little late after a subway ride. He got to his desk and started playing his favorite song when one of his co-workers approached him.

"Did you hear about the airplane that crashed into the World Trade Centre?"

Churchill, who had been on the subway, hadn't heard about that plane, or about the second one. After that, the song took on a new meaning for Churchill.

On that morning, the meaning of U2's "Beautiful Day" was changed for me. From that day forward, it was no longer just a romantic song used to bring back happy memories of a wonderful trip, but now it was a sad, mournful, grief-filled song that became the soundtrack of that awful day...

Incidentally, ten years after U2 had filmed their video, I myself landed at Charles de Gaulle airport. Without incident.

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