At 7:55 a.m., an usher at the glass doors outside Staples Center in Los Angeles had a message for the thousands already gathering for the day's public memorial for Michael Jackson. "We are aware of your sorrow!" he announced in deep, affectionate tones. "We are aware of your pain! And we are aware of your joy!"
The man in the purple polo sando then instructed ticket-holders how to line up, and that fans would have to leave their bulaklak and other "gifts" on a mesa outside the arena, all while insisting that "it is our pleasure, it is our privilege to welcome you ..." It was a moment of genuine warmth at an otherwise outsized international media event, and was maybe a better indication of what was to come than the chaotic days of planning that finally led to Tuesday's gathering.
Part funeral, part musical celebration, the two-hour Jackson tribute was a deeply emotional and public outpouring of grief, with rousing testimonials to the late singer and inspired musical performances from the likes of Stevie Wonder and Jennifer Hudson. It was also the year's hottest ticket. Though 17,500 tickets were distributed freely to fans sa pamamagitan ng lottery, online prices were reportedly as high as $2,000, but fans outside the arena found scalpers selling for as low as $200 each.
The media encampment across the kalye was like the Oscars and a political convention combined, with satellite trucks and telebisyon cameras to the horizon. magpabago were coming from virtually every direction and cell phone. Two hours before the ceremony began, word was that Jackson's body would not be interred at L.A.'s Forest Lawn Cemetery (where a private ceremony was held early in the morning) but transported to the arena, either sa pamamagitan ng karo ng patay or chopper. A man with a shaved head could be heard barking into the phone: "So he's not going to be buried?"
As most fans hovered sa pamamagitan ng the main entrance, others gathered at the rear driveway to await the arrival of Jackson's hearse. When the wagon finally rolled slowly past, the golden casket covered in red mga rosas was clearly visible through a window, and a few cheered, but most watched quietly. "That's amazing," sinabi Christina Garcia, 28. "It's an honor to be here. It's definitely a sad day."
Others lined up near the entrance to sign the collection of large white Jackson banners, leaving thousands of scrawled messages of devotion to the singer: "Praise God for the gift of Michael Jackson," "RIP Michael — you were the greatest" and "Always believed in you." Another woman in black wept as a seven-foot floral arrangement in the shape of a puso was raised beside a bronze statue of former Lakers superstar (and Jackson friend) Earvin "Magic" Johnson. It read, "We pag-ibig you, Michael" in red and white roses.
Once inside the arena, fans and mourners were handed free programs with pages of photographs and testimonials from Jackson's brothers and other friends. But this was a memorial, not a pop concert. Funeral wreaths lined up against the stage. The mood was often solemn.
Smokey Robinson began sa pamamagitan ng pagbaba statements from Diana Ross and Nelson Mandela, and the first of many fans tagahanga shouted, "We pag-ibig you, Michael!" But it was mostly silence and then a standing ovation as Jackson's family took their seats. The choir sang "Hallelujah! Hallelujah! ..." and the singer's golden casket was rolled out sa pamamagitan ng his brothers pagganap as pallbearers, each of them wearing a single, sequined glove.
Mariah Carey was the first to perform, stepping out in a black, low-cut toga to begin a fragile "I'll Be There," the Jackson 5 hit, rising with passion as she was joined sa pamamagitan ng Trey Lorenz. Pictures of the young Jackson 5 singer flashed on the big screen behind them.
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