In October 2001, Bruce Springsteen and John Bon Jovi joined a group of recording artists already scheduled to play in mid-October before the attacks on 9/11, at the Count Basie Theater in Red Bank, NJ. The original artists were from the Sun Records Company (best known for recording Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash). The producer was a man named Rick Korn, a local television executive from Rumson, NJ. Following the attacks on the World Trade Centers and in honor of the many friends and neighbors who had died there, Rick ‘donated’ the concert to his newly formed charity The Alliance of Neighbors of Monmouth County as its first fundraiser.
The Alliance of Neighbors of Monmouth County was born on the sidelines of a Pop Warner football practice in Rumson in the weeks that followed 9/11 by the coaches and neighbors who had lost so many friends in the Towers. Its premise was to provide financial relief for the families of Monmouth County who had lost a loved one in the attacks. Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi who both lived in the area joined the Sun Records Show as their community effort to help in the wake of 9/11.
Several local 9/11 widows were invited to preview The Alliance of Neighbors Concert during the dress rehearsal the night before. With Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi scheduled to play, the local community was twitching with excitement. Several of Rick’s fellow football coaches and their wives volunteered to help with the concert.
As I sat and watched the dress rehearsal, I noticed two things. First, the volunteers were spinning around in their excitement to be involved with these musical legends. Second, it was more a place for them to be seen (i.e. bragging rights) than to actually help (although they thought they were being helpful). And so began my understanding of the possible manipulation, competition, and politics that would surround 9/11. As I learned in the weeks and months that followed, 9/11 presented an opportunity on many levels for many motivations. Skeptical, yes but true. (See Edie Lutnick’s book An Unbroken Bond—Cantor Fitzgerald.)
From watching the rehearsal and the players, I could tell Rick Korn was the real deal. My 15-year career in marketing, advertising, radio, and concert production in New York told me so. After the rehearsal, we met an obligated Bruce Springsteen. It was an awkward and uncomfortable few minutes.
The following night the show was a spectacular success. John Bon Jovi opened with a fantastic rendition of a gospel song with the Red Bank Baptist Church Choir singing back-up. Bruce Springsteen closed with an incredible finale. The Sun Records guys filled the middle. The night raised over $1 million for The Alliance of Neighbors Foundation of Monmouth County.
Charitable foundations were popping up everywhere. Almost all of the 2,832 people who died had some kind of foundation(s) being started in their memory. It seemed that raising money was the only thing people could do to salve the open wound 9/11 had left.
I met Rick briefly at the rehearsal and continued to hear his name mentioned in the daily buzz around town. He seemed to be involved in everything. When I had spoken to him about tickets to The Alliance of Neighbors Show at the Count Basie, we had a connection of like-minded thinking. He called me a few days later to ask if I would be interested in being interviewed on CNN on the Greta Van Susteren Show. I agreed, and we were escorted by limousine into New York City the next night. Things were happening fast. 9/11 was news like no other. Greta asked how we were being treated. I reported that the love, kindness and support we were receiving was unlike anything I’d ever experienced. The patriotism and unity was tangible. People, the government, colleges, businesses couldn’t do enough. The goodness and fellowship that followed 9/11 was unprecedented and profound.
Rick’s background had been music and television production with one career highlight being personal assistant to the late Carl Perkins (who wrote “Blue Suede Shoes” and many other hits). Rick also helped the psychic medium John Edwards sell his television show, Crossing Over, to the Sci-Fi Channel in the late 90s. In the time he knew them, both Carl Perkins and John Edwards had shown Rick the vast and remarkable world of The Other Side, our spiritual connection to those who have crossed over and how they take part in our daily lives.
On the way to CNN, Rick regaled me with stories from his time with Carl Perkins and John Edwards. Both men were very much in touch with The Other Side. Rick told me about signs. How they came in the form of music, numbers, or things that ‘coincidentally’ came at the right time and/or repeatedly showed themselves in one’s daily life. It was charming. It gave me a new way to cope with Ted’s loss. It was lighthearted and fun. I was enthralled and bolstered by this new knowledge and enlightenment. I brought it home and taught my kids. Rick’s knowledge confirmed an interest in the metaphysical that I had followed for many years; a belief that the collective soul is all around us. That energy just changes form. We began to live by it then and we still live by it today.
Rick had ideas about producing other concerts with artists like Bruce Springsteen in a continued effort to raise money for The Alliance of Neighbors. He seemed genuinely motivated and inspired to help in this way. He tried to work with the local cable company to create a docu-concert. He wanted to edit and combine the Count Basie Alliance Concert footage with interviews of local widows, friends and neighbors telling their personal experiences of 9/11, but the project was squelched before it started.
Sadly, Rick was upstaged by the maneuverings of the people involved with the Alliance of Neighbors and local politicians. I witnessed their bullying of him. Bullying is a very hot topic for me, so it got my attention. Here was a guy who was more pathetic than I was and I wanted to help him. He seemed to be getting the short end of the deal. Having received so much from so many in such a short period of time, I was very pleased to find someone whom I could help and whose problems I could think about instead of my own.
Working with Rick offered me a healthy and much-needed distraction. I was gaining new, positive knowledge of not only concert and television production but also, and more importantly, the language and teachings of The Other Side and world of spiritual enlightenment. My mind was kept busy with the daily tasks of the business world that I loved and craved. I was learning at an exponential rate. With the help of Mary and the Embry family, I was able to get some much-needed adult time and concentrate on a creative and meaningful project. Our lives began to take on a new normal.
Healthy, positive distraction while grieving is a good thing. It is not dishonoring the deceased. It is not being disrespectful when one takes a break from the pain. Loss lives on forever and takes many forms. Grief will always be there waiting when you return. If we take out society’s ‘shoulds’ and do what feels right at the time, grief can take on a tolerable rhythm . There is no going around grief, we must go through it and all its stages. Nature will take care of us if we let it and give us the breaks we need. All we have to do is give ourselves permission to listen to our instincts, our sixth sense, and let our emotions be our guide.
Do we want to dwell and define ourselves by the losses and tragedies in our lives? Or would we rather respectfully and positively celebrate the time we had with that special person and bring his or her memory forward with us as we progress toward a bright and positive future? Remember our mantra: Although we’ve lost so much, we still have so much left.
If you believe that your loved-one is standing right next to you as you go through your day, it will lighten your load. What is faith but believing in what one cannot see? Call it God, call it Nature, call it The Universe but one thing is for sure, there is a power higher than us, and if we believe, it will help us to be happy even in our saddest moments.