Rock troubadour Bruce Springsteen sang the prescient “My City of Ruins” and pop diva Mariah Carey gave a comeback performance of “Hero” during an internationally televised pledge drive on Friday benefiting victims of the Sept. 11 attacks on America.
The unprecedented, commercial-free show, dubbed “America: A Tribute to Heroes” and simulcast live from candle-lit studios in Los Angeles and New York, was carried on at least 31 U.S. broadcast and cable networks and beamed to 156 countries around the globe.
Dozens of stars from the movie, television and music industries took part in the emotional but subdued event, providing entertainment and helping to answer telephones and to take pledges from viewers.
Springsteen opened the two-hour show playing acoustic guitar and harmonica and singing “My City of Ruins,” a song he premiered in a pair of live concerts late last year in Asbury Park, New Jersey.
“With these hands, I pray for the strength, Lord, I pray for the faith, Lord, pray for your love, Lord. Pray for the loss, Lord,” the New Jersey-born musician sang.
The special ended two hours later with country legend Willie Nelson leading the assembled stars in Los Angeles – among them Al Pacino, Halle Berry, Jack Nicholson, Tom Cruise, Julia Roberts, Sylvester Stallone, Clint Eastwood and Stevie Wonder – in several choruses of “America the Beautiful.”
CAREY’S FIRST PERFORMANCE
Earlier, Mariah Carey gave a solo rendition of the popular song “Hero,” marking her first public performance since suffering a mental and physical breakdown in late July. And Canadian-born songstress Celine Dion, who went on hiatus last year to devote more time to her family, emerged on the program to sing a rousing rendition of “God Bless America.”
At the outset of the show, actor Tom Hanks said he and his fellow entertainers were joining to “raise spirits and hopefully a lot of money” for victims of the attacks on New York’s World Trade Center and the Pentagon and for the victims’ families.
Hanks then paid tribute to the passengers believed to have rushed hijackers on one of the day’s four redirected flights, causing their plane to plunge into rural Pennsylvania. The passengers are credited with preventing the aircraft from being crashed into another Washington target.
“They likely saved our world from an even darker day and more unthinkable horror,” Hanks said.
Reuters Photo Julia Roberts, her voice trembling, spoke of people who were caught in the stricken trade center’s twin towers on Sept. 11 and who “lived the code of the day – before we save ourselves, we save others.”
Between Hanks and Roberts, a parade of other film and television stars spoke briefly and appealed for donations. Their appearances were interspersed with musical performances by Stevie Wonder, U2, Faith Hill, Tom Petty, Limp Bizkit, Enrique Iglesias, the Dixie Chicks, Wyclef Jean, Alicia Keys, Sheryl Crow and Sting. Billy Joel sang “A New York State of Mind,” and Neil Young performed John Lennon’s “Imagine.”
Actor Will Smith appeared with former heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali, who introduced himself in a halting voice as a Muslim and said: “I wouldn’t be here to represent Islam if it were the way the terrorists made it look…. Islam is for peace.” Smith portrays Ali, who has Parkinson’s disease, in an upcoming movie.
OFFICER, CHAPLAIN LAUDED
Actors Dennis Franz and Jimmy Smits, who starred together on the hit police show “NYPD Blue,” talked about a police officer who died after carrying oxygen tanks into one of the World Trade Center towers. Tom Cruise saluted the Rev. Mychal Judge, a New York Fire Department chaplain killed while administering last rites to a fallen firefighter.
The show was simulcast by all seven commercial U.S. broadcast networks – ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, WB, UPN and Pax – in an unprecedented collaborative effort among media outlets that normally compete for viewers.
Also carrying the special were public broadcaster PBS; the nation’s two biggest Spanish-language networks, Univision and Telemundo; and another 21 cable channels, including HBO, MTV, Showtime and USA Networks.
More than 8,000 radio stations around the country aired the broadcast as well, as did the Internet portal Yahoo, which set up a Web site (http://www.tributetoheroes.org) to accept pledges and remain active after the broadcast with donation and volunteer information.
Outside the United States, the show was beamed to broadcast and cable outlets in at least 156 countries and on the American Forces Network, which carried it live on television and radio to U.S. troops in more than 175 nations.
Carried live in the United States’ Eastern and Central time zones and tape-delayed for the rest of the country, the simulcast was believed to mark the world’s biggest assemblage of broadcast and cable outlets around a single entertainment event.