Roger Waters has long been a friend to New York. Over the years, he’s supported City-based charities (the Robin Hood Foundation), contributed to cultural institutions (the Dali Lama’s Tibet House US), and participated in benefit shows here (the 12.12.12 Concert for Sandy Relief). But his involvement with the Bob Woodruff Foundation best reflects a big theme of his work: reckoning with the human cost of war.
Dedicated to helping wounded soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, the Foundation sponsors an annual fundraiser at the Theater at Madison Square Garden. Dubbed “Stand Up for Heroes,” the event has collected over $57 million for the cause since 2007. The highlight of the program features famous musicians playing alongside injured veterans. Mr. Waters has performed twice, most recently in 2013. For that show, members of the Army, Navy, and Marines accompanied him on the following songs: “Hallelujah” (Leonard Cohen), “Imagine” (John Lennon), “A Change is Gonna Come” (Sam Cooke), and “Comfortably Numb” (Pink Floyd). If you ever check out the proceedings on YouTube, I dare you not to cry.
So when Mr. Waters brought his “US + Them Tour” to the Barclays Center on September 11th , I wasn’t surprised to hear how much the tragedy of the Twin Towers still resonated with him. After finishing his first encore with Pink Floyd’s “Vera,” he remained at the microphone fidgeting in silence. Perhaps the lyrics evoking Britain’s popular chanteuse of World War II still hung in the air. And why not? There’s a war raging right now in the Middle East. But where once British soldiers heard Vera Lynn’s voice and thought of getting home, Americans today maybe hear Beyonce, Rhianna, or Katy Perry overseas and also count the days to their return.
Mr. Waters thanked the audience for coming out. He stopped. Then, gathering a breath, he said:
This is a very sad anniversary for a lot of people in this town, and we feel for the families of all the innocent people who were killed that day 16 years ago. And also for the first responders who died since from the diseases they got from working [at Ground Zero].
Pausing, he added:
And also [for] the hundreds of thousands, even millions of people in the rest of the world who’ve died since that day because of what happened and our responses to it.
So let our hearts be with all the innocent people all around the world whoever they might be, whatever their ethnicity or their color or religion.
Resuming, he announced Pink Floyd’s “Bring the Boys Back Home.”
Oh when will that day come?
Photos by Rick Stachura. September 12, 2017.
Roger Waters on his Us + Them Tour at Barclays Center.
(This story was originally posted to my old Tumblr site on May 18, 2018.)