Photo provided by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra

BERLIN — September 11, 2011:  the 10th anniversary of one of darkest days in recent history.  I was here in Berlin, alongside the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra on what has been a glorious musical tour.

But yesterday morning, we paused to acknowledge the date with a special commemoration.

At Berlin’s city hall, the PSO — with the leadership of the city of Berlin and the U.S. Embassy — marked the anniversary with a musical memorial.

Music is most powerful at times in our lives when words alone are not enough — times of great happiness, such as a wedding, or times of profound sadness, such as the funeral of loved one. Or on a day when we remember scores of lives lost in terror and in service, and recall those who were deeply affected by those losses: men, women and children who have bravely moved forward in worlds drastically different since that ill-fated morning in New York, Washington, D.C. and Shanksville, Pa. in 2001.

The memorial in Berlin began with a quartet of PSO musicians playing Samuel Barber’s soul-wrenching Adagio for Strings, a musical lament that was paired with images from that dreadful day.  The music was extremely touching, and I was unable to look at the projected images.  Like me, many of my fellow Americans in the room buried our faces tissues and handkerchiefs and cried quietly.

The rest of the memorial was equally moving.  The “legacy letters” — messages of life and hope from 9/11 family members — were read by children.  I don’t exaggerate when I say that few people did not shed tears.

One of the messages that struck a chord with me was from Philip Murphy, the U.S. ambassador to Germany.  In his remarks, Ambassador Murphy spoke of turning walls into tables … a profound nod to the destruction of the Berlin Wall, an action which paved the way for Germany’s reunification.  Gathered around tables, leaders can work out differences that threaten to divide, or worse, destroy us.  From the discussions among men and women gathered around tables can come a world that is safer and stronger for our children.  For the youth of our world, the future can beam with renewal and hope and not be darkened by fear or repression — if we dare to talk.

Walls divide and block dialogue.  But by turning walls into tables — places where humans can come together for open-hearted discussions — a brighter future for us all is within our grasp.

On this 9/11 anniversary, I am sad for the many who lost loved ones.  Yet, what I’ve seen and heard here leaves me with renewed hope.  Alongside the PSO musicians and friends with whom I have been traveling for the last two weeks — individuals whose music speaks today where words fail — I was proud to be a Pittsburgher participating in this ceremony in Berlin.

To read more about the PRA’s work with the PSO, click here.