Going home on the ferry that night, I told Rick we needed to do something for these men. We needed to thank them publicly. We needed to tell the world what we had witnessed. We needed to do a Voices of Inspiration concert for them — to rally them, recognize them, support them, and help them begin to heal. Now I understood what I’d been doing for the past year; this was what I’d been working toward all those months.
A friend, Tom Thees, and I produced the show. We booked the 2,900-seat Beacon Theater in New York City for July 22, 2002, and hired Rick as Director. We had six weeks to put together ” Voices of Inspiration– A Universal Hug: A Thank You Concert for The Rescue and Recovery Workers” and their families.
Bill Keegan rallied and invited his men and their families as well as all the others from the 17 trade unions who had worked together including their wives and children. My children and I had been so well supported that I wanted to share as much as I could with them. I wanted them to know we were in this together and how much I appreciated their sacrifice. I profoundly recognized what their families’ had sacrificed too. They were my heroes and I needed them to know how much I cared.
Rick spent the next weeks interviewing rescue and recovery workers, volunteer workers and clergy from Ground Zero. They were open and candid about their experiences and how they felt. Bar Scott, Delores Holmes and several other female vocalists met Rick and Bill Keegan at Ground Zero one night where they sang prayers and communed together from that sacred site amidst the presence of the many lost souls. It was a remarkable moment in time. The human connection and spirituality was so strong. We couldn’t help but feel the power of it. The ‘Force’ was with us all around.
Of course, Gail Sheehee was there too. At that time, she brought a ‘credible’ presence to the project and had been the connection between Bill, Rick and me. The Vogue article was yet to be released, but I was beginning to have my doubts about her. I was beginning to see how opportunistic she was even through my manic positivity.
We headlined the concert with singers Phoebe Snow, Beth Neilson Chapman, and Bar Scott. Garry Tallant, the bassist for Bruce Springsteen, was the Music Director; Bobby Bandiero, who also played with the E-Street Band, played guitar; Delores Holmes, her daughter Layonne Holmes and several other women all former Springsteen singers sang back-up for us. Phoebe, Beth and Bar had all suffered terrible traumas in their lives and had healed themselves by expressing their pain through their music. They sang original songs and told their stories in between.
I opened the show and spoke between musical sets of my remarkable experiences, the vision I’d gained, and the inspiration I felt. I wanted everyone in the audience to have what I had. I wasn’t nervous or shy. It was the most natural thing in the world. I had something to say and the venue to say it. It was an incredible moment for me. In a moment of generosity, I included four other widows to stand on the stage with me to share in the limelight. After Bar, Beth and Phoebe sang, Gail Sheehee introduced Bill Keegan and he stole the show.
Bill delivered his honest and profound philosophy of his 9/11 experiences. He introduced the players from all seventeen trade unions, the volunteers and the clergy many of whom Rick had filmed. Each of them came down from the audience and went up on stage. One by one, Bill spoke personally about their commitment, courage and fortitude. It was their moment. The audience of 2,500 people was comprised primarily of rescue workers and their families but also close friends of mine from around the Tri-State area who came to support me. Everyone clapped and cheered.
Bill finished his speech with more than 20 people standing on stage with him. He had made a show of it with the band playing behind him. It was upbeat, heartfelt, and very cool. When Bill spoke in closing, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room.
When he was finished, Bill called me out on stage. I was presented with three crosses as gifts of thanks: one from the Port Authority cut from the white marble from the North Tower lobby and two crosses cut from recovered steel from the North Tower as well as a gift from the Iron Workers’ Local 40.
The crosses are incredibly special. At eight inches tall, the white marble cross is slightly larger than the two six-inch steel crosses however the steel crosses weigh about three pounds each. I had them framed in beautiful shadow boxes and they are centered high on a shelf that is our little altar to 9/11. Interestingly, I have three children. I have an older daughter with two younger brothers so they will each have one. Did these men know this? Also, when displayed on the shelf together, the crosses depict the crucifixion of Christ. Hmmm….
Needless to say, they are among my most precious possessions. Every time I look at them, I’m reminded of my gratitude for having shared a beautiful time with remarkable people. What we experienced together was an unforgettable moment of camaraderie, grace and resilience amidst an epic of unparalleled tragedy.