Discordant city music
November 20, 2015
When we learned first about a shooting of some kind in Paris, we were in our hotel room in New York City. There for a few quick days to see some shows — one of which will be at the Eccles Center in January — we had run back to our room to change for the evening after a full day of being deep into the eating and shopping and sightseeing and ramping up our pulse to the pace of The City.
There was little known late Friday afternoon — a terrible shooting inside some kind of club and maybe also at some street cafes. We were sad and there was something slightly hauntingly familiar at the same time — the last time we had been in New York City together was three weeks after 9-11.
When we grabbed a cab to head to the theater, it was a minute or two before our driver with a heavy accent of no discernible origin pointed out the Empire State Building. It was all lit up. Red, white and blue. And we realized at once it must be for France.
After the musical (Invisible Thread, which received three separate standing ovations during the performance), we found a place to eat and laugh about the career waiters in maroon jackets probably from the 60s. Though we live close (she with her husband and child in Salt Lake City) and work together, there is rarely time to be the two of us, just mother and daughter. We were pretty carefree, laughing a lot. We finished the meal and headed out to walk a bit and found ourselves in the middle of Times Square. It was bright like day, with those legendary screens displaying giant ads and also ticker tape-style news updates wrapping around buildings. The news was all about the shootings in Paris, the growing numbers killed. And there was a kind of police presence I was unfamiliar with — foot patrols and bicycle patrols and more than a dozen patrol cars (lights off) just parked in the middle of the square.
Back in our hotel room we turned on the news. The shooting had taken place in a club but really it was a music venue and an American band were the featured performers and the concert-goers were mostly young music lovers. I can’t explain how that tore a special hole in my heart. All acts of terror are senseless and tragic and incite a kind of confused anger. But the thought of young people murdered en masse for going to a concert seemed especially heinous.
For the rest of the trip between all the great moments New York City can and did offer us, we were sad and news junkies and talked about the fears all promoters have: the things that can go wrong at a special event. And we plan for them, we all do — rain in the summer, or worse in the winter here, when snow was needed. Is the staging area secure? Are there flammable parts to the event and have they been tested and are there extinguishers on hand? Medical devices and trained EMTs available? And a light hand but visible security presence to discourage fist fights or folks rushing the stage to touch a performer? A plan to evacuate a building or outdoor setting? A number to call and questions to ask if you have a caller who threatens the event or the talent? We go through all that in a rote way and then want to forget about those details and get on with the show/festival/outdoor market/bike race/ski race/concert.
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In that list no one ever has said, what do we do if masked armed intruders show up with assault weapons and open fire on the crowd?
Now we are learning the individual stories of the young people who were murdered, just having a night out with friends seeing, for some, one of their favorite bands, on what should have been an average Friday night. And our hearts are breaking for their lives stolen and for their loved ones left behind.
By Sunday before we flew home we had a few hours to wander through Central Park away from the frenetic pace of city streets. It was a crisp fall day with bright sun but little warmth. The trees are still changing in the park and we spotted three brides taking pictures by fountains and bridges. The squirrels there are large and bushy-tailed and very, very quick. And somewhere in the stroll and conversation we reflected upon how fraught with undeserved guilt those club owners/concert promoters must be.
In times like this we can feel so helpless and confused. Even in one of the biggest, noisiest cities in the world I can’t do much but I can suggest this: we thank those folks who every day train for events they never want to be called to. Who insist upon precautions. Whose job is to, with little drama, keep the peace.
I will work to find the names of the people who own the club in Paris, who were the promoters of that concert, who worked a shift that night in the club and write them a note of sympathy. It is a small planet. They should know thousands of us stand with them in their grief and know there is nothing they could have done to prevent heartless savages invading their space, intent on slaughtering young lives… and joy.
It isn’t much, but it’s something. And something always trumps silence in sharing grief, I have learned. I will light a candle, write a note, raise a glass to joy, this Sunday in the Park…
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the Park City Institute, which provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.
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