New York City's World Trade Center Twin Towers

Ground view looking up at the World Trade Center's Twin Towers in New York City in 1976.

Peter J. Eckel/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

In the days and weeks following the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, many Americans turned to music to soothe, pacify, heal, rouse and distract. It was a time when people were faced with unprecedented surges of emotion and looked, in part, to songwriters to help make sense of the changing landscape. Two landmark events -- The Concert for New York City and America: A Tribute to Heroes -- were organized after the attacks, spurring artists to write inspired new material and re-appropriate classic rock tracks to fit the current milieu.

Compared to more concrete measures, the role of music in the aftermath of 9/11 may seem trite, but these two benefits helped rally a city and a country to put aside differences -- temporarily, at least -- and focus on rebuilding something as important as any physical structure: the national psyche. Here are 10 unforgettable moments from those two programs.


Bruce Springsteen -- "My City of Ruins"

"This is a prayer for our fallen brothers and sisters," Bruce Springsteen said before delivering a wrenching rendition of "My City of Ruins" from his then-upcoming album The Rising. Backed by only a guitar, harmonica and some E Street Band backup singers, Springsteen originally wrote the track in 2000 for an Asbury Park, New Jersey benefit show, but its lyrics of hope and rebirth later became a rallying cry after the attacks.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers -- "I Won't Back Down"

In the wake of the attacks, Tom Petty's first single from 1989's Full Moon Fever re-emerged as an American radio staple and mantra for many Americans. Ironically, then-candidate George W. Bush used the song at campaign rallies in 2000 until Petty forced the candidate to discontinue its usage.

Willie Nelson -- "America the Beautiful"

Willie Nelson closed out the telethon with an ensemble version of the traditional patriotic song. Tom Petty, Tom Cruise, Neil Young and Sylvester Stallone, among many others involved in the concert, sang backup.

Neil Young -- "Imagine"

Veteran singer-songwriter Neil Young performed John Lennon's ode to peace for the first time at the concert, performing an emotional rendition of the song that maintained Lennon's hopeful optimism. Backed by a string orchestra, Young's version was straightforward, yet essential; a call to peace to a populace focused on revenge.