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Friday, September 9, 2011

Musician Rhett Miller’s 9/11 Diary

Old 97s lead singer Rhett Miller. (Courtesy of Rhett Miller)

Old 97s lead singer Rhett Miller. (Courtesy of Rhett Miller)

By: Alex Ashlock

We know Rhett Miller for the music he produces with his country rock band the Old 97s, but on the eve of the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11 we are thinking about him a new light.

Rhett and his then girlfriend, now wife, Erica, lived just three blocks from the World Trade Center.

They were home when the first plane hit. Somewhere in the chaos of that day, Rhett bought a notebook and started writing in it. Part of that diary were published this month in The Atlantic.

We asked Rhett to read it for us (Language Warning):


“It’s a funny thing about that day, Rhett Miller told Robin Young. “Everybody’s got a story and I learned pretty quickly that it’s hard to talk about. I had not even opened that notebook in almost 10 years and I hadn’t read it out loud. I mean I’d read it, and every time I read it it was still hard, and reading it aloud, that was tough. But I’m glad you all got me to do it,” he said.

We also got him to play a song he was in the process of writing when the terror attacks happened. It’s called “World Inside the World.”

“I had just finished reading Don DeLillo’s incredible novel Underworld before 9/11, with its weirdly prescient photo on the cover,” Rhett told Robin. “And there’s a motif that runs through the book, there’s a world inside the world and that kept going through my head. I was working on a song, and I started it in the days leading up to 9/11 and I didn’t get a chance to come back to it for about a month. The first two verses were written before 9/11 and the last verse was written about a month later. I don’t know if that gives anybody any insight into the third verse but I felt like I had to write something,” he said.


  • Rhett Miller, lead singer for the country band the Old 97s

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  • Visitor

    Robin, Robin, Robin.
    And the producers, writers, and editors of the show.

    Thank you for this segment (Rhett Miller’s reading of his 9/11 diary)–uninterrupted by comment or conversation. As I listened to this and then Robin’s sign-off, I heard the compassion that I have come to equate with Robin. I realized that during the weeks following 9/11, her voice and features brought much solace. The emotional, social, and intellectual intelligence of the show, reflected most directly by Robin and her consistent caring professionalism, are a mark of honor for you all, and a human connection for those of us who listen and wish to try to make sense on many levels of the world and works around us.

    The entire show was outstanding today, but in smaller ways, every day is a similar achievement.

  • Lifelongakman

     This was my driveway moment today.  WOW! 

  • Lisa Weidman

    Incredibly moving. Thank you for airing this. Thank you, Rhett, for reading your diary to us and for being so specific about your experience. Your diary will help those who were too young to understand in 2001 to understand what the experience was like.

  • It Programmer39


  • Paul

    It really is up to you and me…
    great emotional reading and one that we will never forget…
    thank you for the song of hope…

  • Anonymous

    Absolutely chilling, and moving. Thank you Rhett, thank you Robin and wbur

  • Gcummingll

    moving segment, i was wondering about the music playing near the end of the piece

  • TPW

    Thank you, Mr. Miller & Here & Now.  I’m speechless.  I wish you serenity.

  • Wettsteins


    I’m a new listener in Pittsburgh which just picked up Here and Now.  As a psychiatrist, I want to comment on your interview style.  In your interview with Mr. Benfante (9-11), you did almost all of the talking, rather than let him tell his story.  Maybe you were rushing to get through the material, but it didn’t work.   An interviewer can prompt the interviewee, but should not speak for them.  It was annoying, quite honestly.  Please sit back, and let the interviewee present him or herself. 


  • Robin

    Robert.. welcome aboard, and thanks for the feedback.

    As to the music at the end of the show, it’s the very end, the kaddish, of Osvaldo Golijov’s Passion of St. Mark. A personal  favorite.

    Best to all

  • nycrng

    In awe/shock.  We were neighbors at 88 Greenwich. I had no idea.  His story is our story…the stairwell, the gym, the people…

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sandi-Kennedy/100001590969093 Sandi Kennedy

    Have loved Rhett Miller and the Old 97′s for about ten years now; never knew Rhett was there that day. I guess it’s the closest I can come to knowing someone connected with 9/11, even though I’ve never met him…I’ve read the article, and was hit hard by it, but hearing him read it aloud makes it hit even harder.  I feel like I don’t even have a right to  cry, since I wasn’t there, didn’t lose anybody, wasn’t affected in my day-to-day life by it, but as always, his writing can make me feel something deeply for a situation I wasn’t involved in…Glad y’all made it out, Rhett.

  • Tami

    God, it’s hard to listen to him read it.  I’m so glad he and Erica made it out alive.

  • Mcnabb2000

    very moving…

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