Wednesday, May 31, 2006


I promise to post something substantive about Autism One in the next few days, but it’s been a little hectic at work and I haven’t had the time to do it justice. In the meantime, let me tell you about something that happened toward the end of our trip.

We stayed an extra day in the Chicago area, and were able to get some fairly good seats at Wrigley Field (not that there are any bad seats there) to see the Cubs host the Reds. I consider a pilgrimage to the friendly confines to be an essential part of any springtime visit to the Windy City. A fine time was had by all, including the Little Rankster, and the Cubs defeated the boys from Cincy by a score of seven to three.

A couple of innings into the game, my wife started smiling and pointed to a man seated a little to the side and one row in front of us. “Isn’t that Paul Offit?” she asked. The spectator she pointed to indeed bore a resemblance to everyone’s favorite shill, but I didn’t think it was him. The odds of him being in Chicago were slim. This man had a much thinner face than the dark one (not that Dr. O is fat anywhere except the wallet, but the man near us was very lean). And if Paul Offit was at the game, he could probably find a luxury box to which he could get himself invited.

Still, I enjoyed the potential irony of being in such proximity to the man I call “the blogger’s buddy” (so called because he manages to provide so many opportunities to write a post pointing out the absurdities of his many public statements). When our neighbor got up to leave, he picked up a tote bag, bearing the brand name Imitrex. It was one of those promotional goodies the pharmaceutical companies shower upon doctors.

Of course, Imitrex is a product of GlaxoSmithKline; had it been Merck, I would have admitted to my wife that she had spotted the real deal. On the other hand, could it have been him? That would be worth a “Holy Cow!”

Friday, May 26, 2006


As I write this, we’ve been through one full day of the Autism One conference in the suburbs of Chicago, and it has been an amazing experience thus far. I’m “meeting” people I’ve already come to know well through the internet. I’m exploring and learning and having a great time.

After this is over, I’m going to take a little time to process everything and put it all into perspective. Some time in the next week, I expect to post something about my impressions. In the meantime, you can listen to some of the sessions on Autism One Radio.

I can make a preliminary observation. There are a lot of very bright people who share my opinions on the existence of an autism epidemic, and the reasons we have the epidemic. We’re not stupid; we’re not gullible. We are an interesting combination of angry and hopeful. And we are intent on creating miracles.

Monday, May 22, 2006


Up to now, I have refrained from posting anything about the tragic death of Katherine McCarron. My reticence stems partly from a feeling of respect for a family’s grieving, but more from a complete lack of understanding about what could compel someone, who by all accounts was a devoted mother, to take the life of a beloved child.

There have been many comments made in various places about the mental state of the mother, but that does not begin to provide an answer about her moral culpability, or lack thereof.

As a very general statement, I think the McNaughton rule, recognized by most American jurisdictions in determining sanity as an exculpatory defense, stands as one of the rare instances in which law and morality actually match up. The test is whether an alleged perpetrator could appreciate the distinction between “right” and “wrong” at the time of an otherwise criminal event. That test is not satisfied if the defendant was unaware of a specific law, or if the defendant felt a mere moral justification. Rather, the rule tests whether the specific individual was intellectually, mentally, and emotionally capable of understanding that the ethics and mores of society hold the act to be wrong. My personal feeling has always been that any person who is capable of that understanding is under a moral obligation to seek help if he/she feels that he/she may have difficulty controlling an immoral or illegal impulse.

As I write this post, the only information we have concerning the mother’s mental state comes from press reports and internet hearsay. That is not enough for me to state any kind of opinion about culpability, although I have to admit that my initial reaction to this event would make me a poor candidate to be a juror, at least from the defense standpoint. Even knowing that a “not guilty” verdict would not be equivalent to forgiving, I would simply have too hard a time not wanting to see some punishment for the death of a defenseless child. That is my bias.

Recognizing bias when discussing something this horrifying is important. The reason I’m writing about this now is an announcement from the moderator of the Autism Hub, concerning a group effort concerning the tragedy. For those who may unfamiliar with the Autism Hub, it is a group of bloggers who wish to uphold the dignity of autistic individuals (hard to argue with that), but who generally do not believe in seeking a cure for autism (which, of course, leaves me out). Despite some differences on the issue of appropriate interventions, I have a great deal of respect and admiration for many of the bloggers on the Hub, and I consider some of them to be good friends. But I do have concerns about this undertaking. This is how Kev Leitch announced the upcoming event:
Katherine McCarron was murdered by her mother on May 13th this year. Katherine was three years old. She was also autistic.

On Wed this week, some Autism Hub members will be posting about this murder and about Katherine.

On Thursday this week, Autism Hub will be ‘shut’ for 24 hours as a mark of respect for Katherine. No posts will be collected and no feeds will work.

Using the word “murder” displays an inclination to prejudge the mother’s guilt, which I can understand to some extent given my admitted tendency to do the same. But I am more concerned that the understandable anger in some of the tributes may be misdirected toward extraneous and irrelevant agendas. To clarify, that possibility for misdirection exists both for any given blogger and for any reader who chooses to leave a comment to one of the posts. I can only hope that the focus will remain on the senselessness of this tragedy, which we can all agree on, without using this child to make a point having nothing to do with her life or death.

I have no right to dictate the actions of anybody, so simply consider this a plea for restraint from a friend. A child is dead because she was unable to defend herself from the one person she should have been able to trust more than anyone. She cannot defend herself from being used by any of us to further our various causes. Let the blogging be respectful and sensitive, particularly to a man who has certainly lost his precious daughter, and who also may have lost his wife as well.

Rather than invite preemptive nastiness by anybody, I will take the unusual (for me at least) step of closing the comments to this post.

Rest in peace, Katie.

Saturday, May 20, 2006


Here’s some good news for those of us who enjoy reading what UPI editor, Dan Olmsted, has to say. A site is now available that compiles the entire “Age of Autism” series. Mr. Olmsted is always careful to note that his writing is not to be interpreted as science. Rather, he fills the role of a journalist: asking questions to try and find the sense of things. And the questions he asks are very compelling.

Friday, May 19, 2006


Less than a week to go until the Autism One conference, and I am pumped up for it!

Time after time, the little Rankster and I have stayed home while our wife/mother has gone without us to DAN! conferences, the NAA meeting, and last year’s Autism One. This time, the Rankins will be present in full force.

I’ll be catching presentations from a few of the different “tracks,” but who knows what will catch my interest at any given time. Sym and I will probably divide up the responsibilities for covering various sessions (not unlike the way we divide up responsibilities at home).

What I’m looking forward to as much as anything is meeting people in person that I have come to know through email, blogs, yahoo groups, etc. If you’re there, make sure you find me and say hello.

Thursday, May 18, 2006


The video entitled Autism Every Day, if nothing else, has sparked a lively discussion within the autism community. Some are understandably hesitant to praise something produced by Autism Speaks, an organization that has yet to earn the trust of many who have been disappointed by too many institutions.

The criticism seems to take in two points: that the controversy surrounding the role of thimerosal and vaccines should have been dealt with forthrightly, and that the video could be seen as a solicitation for pity. One of the mothers who appeared on the video, Michele Iallonardi, posted a reply to some of that criticism on the Evidence of Harm board, and, with Michele’s kind permission, I am quoting her in part below.
I am the mother of three children who have autism. One has been vaccinated, two have been partly vaccinated. I am very interested and involved in biomedical interventions. They have been extremely helpful (we have been doing them for over two years) but my son, as you saw in the video, is far from recovered. My other two children, who are recovering, have been through no biomedical interventions other than changing their diets.

My point is this ⎯ when it comes to autism, there is no one answer for anything. Recovery is not only about biomedical intervention ⎯ maybe for some children, but not for everyone. Autism does have a genetic component (how do you explain three brothers with autism?). I do believe that thimerosal is a huge part of the problem (but not the only part) ⎯ my son with the most vaccinations is the most affected. But, no, I don’t think that all children can recover biomedically. And yes, some children do recover without any biomedical interventions at all.

My life is by no means “pitiful.” I wrote an article in TAP (the autism perspective) magazine last year entitled “I Have Three” talking about just how wonderful my life is with my children. Funny, I actually got flack about that article from some people (who have one child with autism, and were struggling to deal with that) saying that I was too positive (or delusional or crazy). I have written several articles since then about all of the wonderful things parenting children with autism has brought into my life. That being said, the reality is that life for my boys is difficult. Most people that I know don’t realize that. Happiness is a choice, yes, and we are happy. But being happy doesn’t mean that it is easy for my son to sit through glutathione shots, eat special food, or live in a world where he can’t effectively communicate. I’m happy, but I’m not happy about that. He is suffering ⎯ and I can never sit by and just be completely happy when all that is going on. I’ll never settle and accept it either. To quote another mom from the film: “I'm never going to say I quit. It’s just not in my vocabulary.”

To insinuate that I view my life as pitiful is just a hurtful statement that has no point. What I view as pitiful is the time and energy spent (or wasted) in our community criticizing each other. My own life is an example of both genetic and biomedical causes to autism. My own life is an example of how happiness is a choice ⎯ because we have certainly had four years from hell, with many medical problems, with three children diagnosed with autism in less than one year, but we are happier than most people I know. We are broke, we hate watching our children suffer, and we go through things that most people ⎯ even some on this list ⎯ could never imagine. That is the reality, and that is what the film wanted the public to understand.

Let’s be honest; life would be easier if our kids didn’t have autism, don’t you think?

One of my wife’s great phrases is that she’s not interested in a pity party; she wants to help our son get better. I think that’s similar to what Michele is trying to say.

Like many, I remain somewhat wary of Autism Speaks. But they seem to be saying the right things about wanting to find the truth about the causes and cures for autism. Could this video dealt more with the question of possible causes? Of course. But the point was to show one part of the spectrum. Frankly, I’m not too worried about the motive in making the film, because I just want people to know what life is like for some families with autism.

Thank you, Michele.

Monday, May 15, 2006


I have never felt that autism is a “living hell;” rather, I think of it as a system of challenges, deficits, and threats to independent living that must be overcome. And overcoming them is imperative.

I must emphasize, though, that I can only speak to the experiences of my family in saying that. Just as the clinical picture for autism encompasses a spectrum that each child falls on differently, so does the impact of autism on individual families run across a spectrum. I am aware of some people that do not perceive autism as a threat at all. On the other hand, the challenges of autism can be overwhelming in more severe cases.

It’s not just the child who gets autism; it’s the whole family. And the family is autistic all day, every day.

Divorce rates among the autism community are high; financial problems are rampant (even in states where health insurance is legally required to cover autism, getting the insurer to pay for even mainstream therapies other than Ritalin is near impossible); and the worry about an autistic child’s future never goes away.

As I said before, autism is not viewed as a “living hell” in the Rankin household, but neither is it a cause for celebration. It dominates our lives. It keeps us up at night. It redirects resources. What partly gets us through each and every day is our sense of purpose, and the willingness my wife and I have to share responsibilities. But the other thing that keeps us going is the progress we see our son make, we believe as a result of the hard work we put in, always keeping him as our top priority. It gives us hope for his future.

Not every family is as lucky as we have been. Considering as bad as things seem for us sometimes, that thought frightens me. Sometimes autism is so profound that hope becomes a scarce and precious commodity.

Autism Speaks recently produced a 13-minute video showing the impact autism has had on four families. It is disturbing, mainly because it is real. It’s called Autism Every Day, and it should be seen by every adult who does not have an autistic child. The next time someone asks you how many three-pointers your autistic son sank, whether your autistic daughter can play Bach fugues by memory, or just what “special gifts” your autistic child has, point them to this video. Those gifts are on one side of the spectrum, but Autism Every Day shows the other side of the spectrum.

Friday, May 12, 2006


I’m not a big fan of “reality” television, mainly because it bears no resemblance to any reality I know of. And now comes word of a new show that confirms my opinion of the genre. The saving grace is it is apparently a one-time-only event.

Some creative genius decided that America just hasn’t had enough of O.J. Simpson, and created the show, Juiced. The hour-long program, which will be on pay-per-view (because there are some things even Fox TV won’t touch), features the former A-list football player turned C-list “actor” turned murder suspect in a series of pranks. Those who wish to pay for such “entertainment” will see O.J. as an Elvis impersonator, O.J. disguised as an elderly man running a bingo game, and other such frivolity.

One segment of the show, however, will sink television to a new low in taste. Simpson will stand in a used-car lot trying to sell a very familiar looking white Bronco. He tells one prospective buyer, “It was good for me ⎯ it helped me get away.”

Gloria Allred, the attorney who represented the family of Nicole Brown Simpson in their civil suit against Simpson, has been quoted as hoping that some of O.J.’s earnings from the show can go toward satisfying the large judgment in the Brown’s favor, most of which is still unpaid. But Ms. Allred should not hold out any hope. The show’s executive producer claims that Simpson was not paid for his appearance, and that he did it because “he wanted to have fun with it.”

Some may be skeptical of the claim that O.J. Simpson will not be paid for his efforts, but I can believe it. After all, a guy needs to unwind and have a few laughs after spending all those endless hours searching for the real killer.

Monday, May 08, 2006


In the last post, I wrote about the dangers autistics may have of being taken advantage of by those who may be ethically challenged. Then I saw a story out of Toronto that illustrates the physical peril autistic children may find themselves in without appreciating the danger. The caretaker of a 12 year-old autistic boy only left him alone for a few minutes. That was enough time for the boy to fall to his death from the apartment building they were in.

What was the young man doing by the window? Did he have any idea that there was any danger? That we have no way of getting the answers makes the questions all the more frightening. And now a family must deal with an inconceivable loss. I can’t begin to imagine their pain.

As parents, we struggle with what is the right thing to do for our children. My wife and I can “child proof” the house we live in to some extent, but can we “child proof” the world? And what happens when we’re not there to watch over our son?

Looking at the words I just typed, I have to admit that it all sounds terribly melodramatic. I can’t help thinking, however, that the melodrama has become quite real for the family of a 12 year-old boy in Canada. And I am so fearful because we seem to see these news items too often.

Thinking about all of this, I went back to re-read a couple of posts I wrote last October, trying to explain why some of us go to lengths others see as extreme. This is part of what I wrote back then:
Yes, I’m desperate. I’m desperate to help my son achieve a measure of independence. I’m desperate to prevent my son growing up to be nothing more than a victim. I’m desperate to see my son grow up with no barriers to hold him back. In other words, I’m a normal parent.

Of course, I meant “normal” in the sense of “ordinary” or “typical,” and not as a synonym for “neurotypical.” I think the basic yearning to keep one’s children safe is common to most parents, including parents who are, themselves, “on the spectrum.” If I was to write that same post today, I might drop the word “normal,” but I would otherwise say the same thing.

Zilari left an interesting comment to my last post, respectfully pointing out that danger avoidance can be taught without the need of a “cure.” In general, I can’t disagree. That kind of education is necessary for all children, particularly autistic children. The effectiveness of that training, however, is sure to vary from child to child, just as similar efforts with neurotypical children vary in result.

Moreover, I’m certainly not suggesting that danger avoidance is the only reason to seek a cure/remediation/abatement of symptoms/whatever term may seem appropriate. Intervention is a decision that can only be made for individual children by weighing a variety of considerations, including all known risks.

I pray that I’m not doing anything to change the person my son really is. That being said, I will gladly join in any effort to change the world to be a friendlier and safer place for all of its inhabitants. Considering, though, that mankind has tried to recreate Eden or create a utopia from the beginning, I don’t think it imprudent to do whatever I can to help my son reach a point at which the world is not a confusing and scary place ⎯ a point at which he recognizes the good and the bad, the beautiful and the dangerous, and all the nuances in the world around him.

Sunday, May 07, 2006


Jared Guinther, now 18 years old, was diagnosed as a child with “moderate to severe autism.” His current dilemma is recounted in a story from The Oregonian. Jared spent most of his school life in special-ed classes, but managed to spend his senior year in high school in “regular” classes with the help of extensive tutoring and other accommodations. This was a choice by his family so Jared because they did not want him to have a modified diploma. Now it seems that Uncle Sam doesn’t see much of a distinction between Jared and any other 18 year-old.

Army recruiters, apparently under pressure to get their numbers up, have signed Jared up for a four-year hitch in one of the service’s most dangerous positions, cavalry scout. He was offered a $4,000 signing bonus, a college fund, “and more buddies than he could count.” But Jared didn’t understand he wouldn’t get the bonus until after basic training, that he was signing up for a four-year period, or just how dangerous this Army thing was going to be. His parents had to explain to him there was a war going on.

When Jared’s mother called the recruiter to explain the situation, she was told “Jared’s an 18 year-old man. He doesn’t need his mommy to make his decisions for him.”

The Army is now investigating the matter. Hopefully, that investigation will reach the obvious conclusion before Jared has to report on August 16.

The story in The Oregonian is more about the lengths to which recruiters go to remain ignorant of disqualifying factors than it is about autism. Indeed, the article relates the usual “no known cause or cure” line without mention of any of the controversies that remain the focus for so many of us. What the story does for me is to underline three needs.

First is the need to educate the public in general, and people in positions like army recruiters in particular, to recognize and understand the disabilities involved with autism. One recruiter told Jared’s mother that he (the recruiter) had dyslexia and it was no big deal. He didn’t particularly want to listen to a lecture on the differences between dyslexia and autism.

Second, we, as a country, need to develop alternative means of service for autistic adults so that they may contribute to worthwhile enterprises like national security in a meaningful and appropriate way.

Third, this story underlines for me, as a parent, the need to do everything I can do to get my child to a point where he can recognize the danger or inappropriateness of a choice, and he can advocate for himself. Does that mean I want to cure my son? Yeah, I guess it does.

Monday, May 01, 2006


My brother, John Rankin, is a relatively well-known guitarist in New Orleans. One of my favorite’s of his original tunes is an instrumental entitled, “Last of April, First of May.” For those “in the know,” the title needs no explanation, especially once you feel the rhythms of the song, which manage to be laid-back and exciting at the same time. It’s a groove we feel around these parts every year during the last weekend of April through the first weekend of May. It’s JazzFest.

The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, better known as JazzFest, began in 1970 with a series of night concerts and a two-day “heritage fair,” a celebration of music, food, and crafts, in what was then known as Beauregard Square (it has since reverted to its original name of Congo Square), which can lay claim to being the true birthplace of jazz. It was in Congo Square that, in antebellum days, slaves were allowed to gather in the evening to dance and play the music of their native Africa. They kept the rhythm alive, and it eventually morphed with other musical styles into what we now know as jazz, the single greatest contribution New Orleans made to the world ⎯ and perhaps the greatest cultural contribution any city has ever made.

Well-know JazzFest lore holds that there were more performers than spectators in the first year. But by 1972, the fair grew to the point at which a larger location was necessary, and a move was made to the Fair Grounds, one of the oldest thoroughbred horse racing tracks in the country. The place suited the festival well. My mother, who was a volunteer with the festival for the first several years and who loved it dearly for the rest of her days, often spoke of her feelings about crossing the track onto the infield and feeling like she was stepping into another country. She always felt her description lacked something. Big Mama was not one to use phrases like “parallel universe,” but I think that was the point she was trying to make. The Fair Grounds became a place where magic occurs.

I began attending JazzFest in 1973 at the tender age of 16 (oops, now you know how ancient I am). I had grown up on traditional jazz but had developed a real taste fro the blues, and my mother assured me there would be something to my liking out there. It was a lesson in the real thing; I was introduced to players like Snooks Eaglin and Gatemouth Brown. Everywhere I wandered around the multiple stages, a new sound enticed me over. Then something happened that changed the way I thought of the “last of April” from then on.

Because I was in the right place at the right time to hear the right rumor, I stayed close to a particular stage that was supposed to be empty. What we were treated to was an unannounced jam session, led by B.B. King, featuring Professor Longhair, Roosevelt Sykes, and Bukka White, and ably backed by George Porter and Zigaboo Modeliste (the bassist and drummer for the Meters). To borrow an apt phrase from the liturgy of baptism, I was sealed as JazzFest’s own forever. I learned that the essence of JazzFest was not the music; it was the moment.

Over the years, JazzFest continued to grow to take two weekends. The nighttime concerts were eventually jettisoned altogether. The stages got larger and more numerous, and the people ⎯ meaning both big-name performers and crowds ⎯ came in ever-growing quantities. But throughout it all, it was the moments that defined my JazzFest experiences.

Eight months ago, of course, everything changed in New Orleans. To make JazzFest happen this year, the once unthinkable occurred and a “presenting sponsor” came in to help underwrite the festival (leading to the ubiquitous but relatively tasteful appearance of logos by an oil company). That really wasn’t too difficult a pill to swallow considering the sale of naming rights for the various stages in recent years (you can tell the old-timers who still refer to the “Accura stage” as “Stage Four”). The real changes were to eliminate Thursday from the second week, and the cutting and/or consolidation of some of the stages.

Still, I had faith that I would find at least one good “JazzFest moment” this year. I just didn’t know I would find so many in the first weekend.

There were moments that connected me to Jazzfests past. Clarence “Frogman” Henry has reached the point in life where he now needs a walker to go out onto the stage, but once there he can still “sing like a frog” or “sing like a girl” to the utter delight of an appreciative crowd.

I’m not sure how old Snooks Eaglin actually is, but he is still one of the most inventive masters of the blues guitar anywhere, just as he was at my very first JazzFest. He is certainly the only one I’ve ever heard play flamenco-inspired arpeggios in the middle of a funky R&B song.

Once again, I was able to dance with my wife to the sounds of Rosie Ledet, the Zydeco sweetheart. Rosie may not be that old a performer, but she quickly became a fixture at JazzFest in the mid-nineties. Her recordings have never captured the irresistible charm of her live performances, and she did not disappoint this year.

Then there were the moments that let me know the traditions would outlive any of the performers I saw this year. The Mahogany Jazz Band served notice that the venerable traditions of the New Orleans streets were in good hands. And somewhere up in Zydeco heaven, Clifton Chenier, who was part of a great JazzFest moment in an amazing performance shortly before he died, must have been grinning ear-to-ear as his son, C.J. led the current incarnation of the Red Hot Louisiana Band through a hot set.

Some of the moments were a bit mixed. One of my particular favorites, the subdudes, who provided many great JazzFest moments over the last several years, played an awesome set to a somewhat rude audience of teenagers waiting for Dave Matthews. Scattered around were pockets of true fans who did what we could to make sure the guys knew their efforts were appreciated.

Sometimes the JazzFest moments are just that: mere moments. I recall seeing Babe Stovall back in 1974. Babe was a bluesman who sang on the streets and in the clubs of the French Quarter. He ordinarily played a steel-bodied National resonator guitar, but it was stolen and Babe was playing a cheap pawn-shop special in his JazzFest performance. Halfway through the set, someone passed up a brand new National to Babe. That was a moment that etched itself in my heart as well as my mind: the type of moment one does not expect to experience at every JazzFest. This year there were two.

On Saturday, my brother, John, played his 23rd JazzFest. It was a typically fine performance that produced a moment about halfway through when he sang “Louisiana 1927,” Randy Newman’s song about the suffering of Louisianians as the result of floodwaters pouring through a long-ago break in the levees. The location names are a little different, but it is a song that has been especially poignant for us in what we call “the Post-K era.” I’ve heard John sing the song many times before, but never better. In the midst of a badly damaged neighborhood, the audience knew what it was hearing. There was a collective sharp intake of breath upon the opening verse, respectful silence through the song, and a heartfelt round of applause at the end.

The other moment came the next day at an amazing set by Bruce Springsteen and the Seeger Sessions Band. Just going to that set was quite a decision given that the original Meters were playing at another stage. But in the words I saw on a t-shirt this year, “Judge not your JazzFest by the greatness of what you have seen, but by the greatness of what you have missed to see it.” (Indeed, on Saturday, I passed up seeing the great Hugh Masekela, who I saw performing brilliantly just two years ago at the Fest, to see other acts.) My plan was to start out at the Springsteen set and then high-tail it to catch the end of the Meters’ performance, but I knew I was witnessing something important halfway through the Boss’ performance.

To begin with, I am a big fan of both Bruce Springsteen and Pete Seeger. When I heard that Springsteen was recording an album of traditional folk songs as a tribute to Mr. Seeger, I was naturally intrigued. Booking this act seemed a natural considering the charismatic performances delivered by Mr. Seeger in past JazzFests (talk about your moments). The performance this year by what can only be called a folk orchestra (folkchestra?) exceeded all my expectations.

The Seeger Sessions Band, in addition to Mr. Springsteen, consists of guitars, violins/fiddles, banjo, dobro and steel guitar, keyboards and accordian, upright bass, drums, and a full horn section. The sound was a mixture of bluegrass, zydeco, country, the blues, anglo-american folk music, and traditional jazz. In local parlance, it was a gumbo. In fact, it was all the music that makes for a good JazzFest being played simultaneously in a way that it sounded like one music. Then, we had the rarest of all JazzFest experiences: a moment within a moment.

Throughout the set. Mr. Springsteen made spoken and musical references, some of them overtly political, about our recent experience. It was a nice way of letting us know we weren’t forgotten, but that’s been true of any number of musicians and celebrities. At the beginning of the encore, however, came a song somewhat newer than many that had already been played: Springsteen’s “City of Ruins.” The song, chronicling the urban decay of Asbury Park, New Jersey, became an anthem of sorts for post 9-11 New York. It could just as easily be speaking of post-K New Orleans:

There is a blood red circle
On the cold dark ground
And the rain is falling down
The church door’s thrown open
I can hear the organ’s song
But the congregation’s gone
My city of ruins
My city of ruins

Now the sweet bells of mercy
Drift through the evening trees
Young men on the corner
Like scattered leaves,
The boarded up windows,
The empty streets
While my brother’s down on his knees
My city of ruins
My city of ruins

Come on, rise up! Come on, rise up!
Come on, rise up! Come on, rise up!
Come on, rise up! Come on, rise up!

By the time we were told to “rise up,” more than a few people had tears streaming down their faces. The real moment came on the following lines:
Now with these hands,
With these hands,
With these hands,
I pray Lord

With no prompting, nearly every person in the crowd at that stage, numbering at least 30,000, lifted their hands in prayer for a beloved city.

Looking back at what I just wrote, I realize it sounds hokey or over-the-top. I can’t help that. I was there to see the tears and to feel a shared emotion that was so real as to be palpable.

A couple of songs later, Bruce left us with an unusually mellow version of “When the Saints Go Marching In.” Quint Davis, who produces JazzFest, took the mike to repeat what has become the motto and mantra of this year’s festival: “Witness the Healing Power of Music!” Sometimes, a lot of healing can occur in just a moment.