Eoin Butler: writer, journalist and Mayoman of the Year

Tripping Along The Ledge


“I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of small children…”

On the evening of September 11th, 2001, as the initial shock of what had happened began to abate, I remember my thoughts turned to what would come next. Events were still in flux, but it was already clear that whatever happened after the dust settled in New York, it wasn’t going be pretty.

That evening I was sick of staring at the television so I went out for a drink. It was Slattery’s on Capel Street. On the television in the corner, Sky News was showing night vision pictures of the skyline over Kabul. I assume now that those pictures showed the Northern Alliance shelling Taliban positions. But at the time no one, not even the Sky News reporters, seemed to be quite sure who was firing, or who was being fired upon. I just remember people – punters, barstaff, everyone – staring at the television screen in grim silence. And this ominous refrain playing over and over in my head… “It’s a-hard, it’s a-hard, it’s a-hard, it’s a-hard… It’s a hard rain’s gonna fall…”

Dylan wrote A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall during the Cuban Missile Crisis, when he 21 years old. The same age I was in September 2001. I’m not comparing myself to the guy, not even for a second. But I do think that, for a moment on that awful day, I had some inkling of how he must have felt in October 1962.

He later said that every line in the song was the first line of another song he wanted to compose one day. “But when I wrote it,” he explained “I thought I wouldn’t have enough time alive to write all those songs, so I put all I could into this one.”

September 11th, 2011.

4 Responses to ““I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of small children…””

  1. Karl Conway Says:

    Nice post, Eoin. It was certainly one of those moments where everyone remembers where they were at the time they heard.

    When I think of this song I now also think of Allen Ginsberg’s words about it from the No Direction Home film. How amazed he still was at the lyrics as an old man (I think quite probably near death himself at the time of the interview); how he chokes up on camera remembering the first time he heard those lines when he realised how the torch had been passed from the Beats to Dylan and his generation.


  2. Cormac Says:

    Terrible how many lives were needlessly lost on 9/11. On the upside, some people seem to have gained a year on that day. Swings & roundabouts!

  3. Darragh Says:

    Really liked this post. Short & succinct, but very affecting. And this re-write of it is the best one.

    I read before that Dylan once said that: “Hard Rain is a desperate kind of song”, which struck me as a fairly apt description when you perceive it in the 9/11 (& post-9/11) context.

  4. Dermot Says:

    Good post mate.

    Rather disheartening to learn that no groundbreaking clarity has been achieved in the last 10 years regarding who’s firing, and what’s been fired upon over there.

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