NEW YORK There were numerous memorable moments backstage at the Concert for New York City on Saturday, ranging from the sublime (the Who posing for photos with Keith Richards and Mick Jagger) to the surreal (former President Bill Clinton, Donald Trump and Harrison Ford walking down the hall and chatting).
They ran the gamut from reverential (Backstreet Boys' Kevin Richardson gazing in awe as Pete Townshend signed a guitar and later screaming along with "Baba O'Riley" while air-windmilling during the Who's set) to compassionate (Billy Crystal hugging a woman whose husband died in the attack and walking away teary-eyed).
But regardless of what these images evoked, they all represented the spirit of unity that the event was meant to express (see "McCartney, Jagger, Bowie, The Who Come To NY's Aid"). And the crowds of police officers and firefighters that weaved between actors, musicians and comedians served as a reminder of the heroism being honored that night.
"It's humbling to be here for their families, and you want to entertainment them in such a way that they can forget for just a moment the tragedy, the hell that they've had to sleep with every night," Jon Bon Jovi, who played "Livin' on a Prayer" and "It's My Life" with his band, said. "A friend once told me that when he lost his wife everyone held him up, but when they left after the funeral procession, the door closed and that was the first time he was alone, and he crumbled. I want these folks to know that nobody's forgetting. Nobody's leaving, no one's closing the door."
"I looked out and saw a sea of blue, and I was so moved," Billy Joel said after playing a short set that included his love song to the city, "New York State of Mind." "These guys have been through the mill, and to see a couple smiling faces, to see these guys have a couple of good moments is very, very important. What we're doing is really not enough, but it's what we do."
Many who once overlooked the bravery of the New York police and fire departments now see them in a new light. Jay-Z, who has had his share of run-ins with the cops (see "Jay-Z Pleads Guilty To Stabbing, Faces Three Years' Probation"), is no exception.
"The policemen, they're always right there, and they're always in your face. Then something like this happens and you see the real work that they do and you really have a whole different respect for them," he said. "Before, we only saw one thing in the hip-hop community because nothing like this has ever happened. So when you see them actually doing good for people and actually helping people out, you have to respect that."
For some on the night's all-star lineup which included Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, Elton John, David Bowie, James Taylor, Destiny's Child and others the emotional resonance went beyond merely empathizing with the victims. Backstreet Boys lost a member of their tour entourage, Daniel Lee, who was on one of the planes that terrorists hijacked.
"We lost one of our crew members who we saw every night," Nick Carter said. "Our lives were in his hands every night. He was a carpenter with us, and he set up our special effects and worked on the stage every night. And we wanted to be here for him and to honor all these brave men and women sitting in the audience tonight."
Before September 11, New Yorkers were frequently viewed as unfriendly, selfish and uncivilized. Characters like Jerry Seinfeld helped cement the stereotype of the whiney, shallow Manhattanite, and Hollywood did little to dispel the idea of the Big Apple being a place a corruption, greed and crime. Today, those perceptions seem to be shifting.
"Let's face it, we're not exactly the most popular people around the rest of the country," Joel said. "But what's great to see is how the country has rallied around this place, which really does symbolize America to the rest of the world. I'm also proud of all these English people. I call them teabags your Jaggers, your McCartneys, Clapton, Elton, Bowie. They are standing shoulder-to-shoulder with us, and I thank them for that."
"We were just honored to be asked to play," said Roger Daltrey of English rockers the Who, whose four-song set of '70s anthems was one of the highlights of the night. "We are just as wounded in some ways as New York is. We felt your pain. The British people are totally behind America in this. We're on your shoulder, really. You've been there for us so many times. If it hadn't been for you, we would have probably lost the First World War and certainly the second."
The Concert for New York City raised more than $14 million in ticket sales alone. But regardless of how much money is raised, many pointed out that the city, its monuments and even its people will never be quite the same as they were before September 11.
"Everything's changed. Everything," Joel said. "The first song we did tonight, 'Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway),' was written 25 years ago as a science fiction song. I wrote it about being an old man living in Miami because all New Yorkers move down to Florida when they get old. And I'm in the year 2017 telling my grandchildren about an apocalypse in New York. Well, I never thought it was going to be a prophecy."
For more information on and audience reaction to the attacks, including tips on how you can help, see "9.11.01: Moving Forward."
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