[From letters written by John J. Cimino, Jr., who is a New York based change management facilitator and musician to friends and colleagues.]
Last night, Dianne, Tom, and I performed at a GROUND ZERO VIGIL in New York City. It was windy and chilly and the crowd smaller than expected, but those who were there were clearly there with a purpose that ran deep.
The stage was the flatbed of a truck; the piano mounted five feet above our heads on a platform near the truck's cab. Lights and sound equipment hung from poles all around and a modest sea of flickering candles stretched before us waxing and waning through the night. A gospel choir warmed up the crowd with their bright voices and uplifted faces. I could feel the make-shift stage and precariously positioned grand piano shaking visibly as the choir swayed to the music. A minister offered a prayer of remembrance and re-dedication and then we sang.
I sang the traditional spiritual "The Gift of Love;" Dianne performed Langston Hughes' "Litany."
"Gather up in the arms of your pity all the souls of our weary city: gather up in the arms of your love, those who expect no love, from above."
Then together we performed "Somewhere" from West Side Story, which the crowd sang along with us. A few minutes later, someone unveiled a sculpture named "Peace Angel." It was forged from melted down metal of illegal weapons. Then we performed again, this time singing Jacque Brel's anthem "If We Only Have Love" followed by Gershwin's rousing "Oh, Lord, I'm On My Way". Everyone loved our music and there were many heart-felt thank you's, some tearful, some all smiles, some out-of-towners discovering a uniquely New York happening, many others from the police, fire and rescue teams working at GROUND ZERO.
For me, the most moving part of the evening was meeting some of the police, fire, and rescue workers in Nino's Restaurant after the vigil was over. Many, if not most of them had no idea that we had just finished a performance. They were arriving straight from GROUND ZERO, finishing a shift, taking a break, and stepping in from the cold. Their faces said it all, their courtesy and simple acceptance of us spoke volumes. We sat together, exchanged small talk, read the letters from children, which were on all the tables and walls. And we ate the steaming hot food, which Nino provided in abundance. There was no fuss. We and our music were simply part of the coming and going of this night and place of nourishment. This felt very right to me -- I don't think I will ever forget it.
John J. Cimino, Jr.
Three and a half weeks ago, I shared with you our experience performing at the November 11th GROUND ZERO VIGIL. So many of you wrote back to me with your own insights, encouragements, and stories and even passed our little story on to others. In very beautiful and meaningful ways, you told me that what we did was important to you that you were with us in spirit ó and valued your connection with us and the work we do. I can only say I am grateful to each of you and feel blessed to have you in my life. The sorrows and challenges of the last months have been a heavy burden for so many of us but they have also revealed more of our depths and so many gifts of compassion and solidarity. Thank you again for your own reaching out and for re-connecting with me so personally.
John J. Cimino, Jr.
Copyright 2002 Cimino