The joyous, free-spirited atmosphere of the Video Music Awards was momentarily put on hold by a touching tribute to 22-year-old singer Aaliyah, who died in a plane crash August 25.
Janet Jackson, in a pink hat and modest black dress, opened the memorial by recounting Aaliyah's sentiment when her grandmother passed away: "One day we will be together again." She then read a letter from K, 19, of Decatur, Georgia, which was sent to MTVNews.com (see "Fans Remember Aaliyah"). It said, in part, "I for one will not be sad or mourn her death, but celebrate her life and be thankful for her gift that's touched so many. We haven't lost anyone. We've only gained an angel." Jackson ended her speech by saying, "We will always love you."
Missy Elliott, Timbaland and Ginuwine, with heads bowed, were next to share their feelings on the tragic loss of their friend. "Aaliyah was deeply loved and will be so deeply missed. I think I speak for all of us standing here when I say she was definitely one in a million," Ginuwine said, referencing the title of the singer's second album, 1996's One in a Million.
Timbaland added, "Aaliyah was a temple of excitement, joy and peace. To me, she was my little sister, my musical inspiration ... your music will always live on through me."
Elliott was visibly shaken and nervous with her delivery. After saying that people should appreciate each other, she apologized for not being more prepared. "I didn't write anything, I just felt like I had to come from the heart. And I love you, Aaliyah, and you're forever missed."
Aaliyah's brother, Rashad Haughton, wrapped up the brief but bittersweet tribute by thanking his sister's friends and colleagues who offered their condolences in this dark time for his family. He ended his speech with a feeling of gratefulness rather than remorse: "I am truly happy to have been given a gift like you, Aaliyah," he said, staving off tears.
Though Aaliyah's homage was short, her absence from the 2001 Video Music Awards loomed over the Metropolitan Opera House all night, evidenced early on by City High and Eve's shout-out during their pre-show performance and the Aaliyah T-shirt Usher was wearing when he and Estella Warren presented Destiny's Child with the award for Best R&B Video.
Catch all the sizzlin', star-packed VMA action direct from Miami on August 28. MTV News' preshow kicks things off at 6:30 p.m. ET/PT, followed by big show at 8 p.m.
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