By mid-fall, we accepted an invitation to attend The Concert for New York City at Madison Square Garden (MSG). The benefit concert was attended by many first responders and families of the lost.
Since I had never been to a rock concert before, I asked my brother and sister-in-law to come along. Recently James and Fran had moved back to New Jersey from California where they had lived for several years. Their return to the East Coast couldn’t have come at a better time.
My little brother James was a rock concert veteran. He was younger than me but at six feet, four inches in height was far from “little.” I thought his height and rock concert experience might come in handy.
On October 20, 2001, as we walked from the parking garage to MSG the streets were quiet. It seemed all wrong. I remember thinking, This is New York City on a Saturday night—quiet isn’t normal.
But the quiet gave way to loud as we entered MSG.
Our seats were a quarter of the way up the arena and slightly to the side of the stage. From where we were sitting, we not only had a great view of the stage, we could glimpse the backstage as well.
Thankfully, Fran brought earplugs for all of us.
The concert opened with David Bowie on stage. There were many amazing performers. Paul McCartney, Billy Joel, Elton John, James Taylor, and Backstreet Boys to name a few. Some performers I didn’t know so I asked
“Meghan, who’s this?”
“Five for Fighting,” she replied.
A little later, Emily asked me, “Mom, who’s this?”
It was like an Abbott and Costello routine. We dissolved into laughter. It felt good to laugh.
The firefighters made sure my daughters had a good time. Part way through the concert they asked permission to escort Emily and Meghan to the front row, so they could see Destiny’s Child up close and personal.
There were short films by Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese. Different celebrities made appearances to offer encouragement. Harrison Ford was just as handsome in person as in the movies. Adam Sandler offered some funny moments as “Opera Man.”
It was a loud but enjoyable evening.
Until the end.
The atmosphere totally changed when former President Bill Clinton came on stage. Boos. Curses. People, remembering an October 2000 attack on the USS Cole that had gone unchallenged, began yelling, “Remember the Cole! Remember the Cole!”
My brother and FDNY escorts stepped in closer to my daughters, my sister-in-law, and myself.
It was scary.
I found myself thinking of the roar of the crowds surrounding Jesus and the shouts of “Crucify Him!”
Looking back, I believe those moments escalated due to raw emotion (intensified by too much beer and lack of sleep).
It was a month and nine days after we had been attacked.
Healing was a long way away for all of us.
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