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Wings Over America
Wings Over America
(2013 Remaster)

2001-Oct-20: "I will fight for the right to live in freedom!"

In a pre-concert interview today, Sir Paul told a reporter:
"Like everyone else, I thought, I want to do something.  You know, I'm not a fireman, I'm not a rescue worker, so there's no point in me really going down there. I've got to think of something else.  And then a friend of mine, the head of Miramax films, Harvey Weinstein, started twisting my arm. He said, 'Will you do this show?  This is a good one.' So I realized  that instead of doing lots of little shows, and split the effort, it would be good to do this."
And good it was indeed!  Sir Paul masterminded what will probably be remembered as the most remarkable concert in the history of rock.  The world's most famous celebrities and thousands of New York's heroes rocked the world this evening in an astonishing and unique display of talent and emotion.

For five hours the rock stars paid tribute to New York city's heroes - the firefighters and police officers who have been searching the rubble at Ground Zero since the terrorist attacks on September 11. The best seats in the center of  Madison Square Garden were reserved for these heroes as well as for the families of their missing colleagues.   As the television cameras panned across the auditorium, families and colleagues held up treasured photographs of loved ones who died at the disaster site and mouthed their names. Children wore the hats of their fathers who died in the collapse of the twin towers of the World Trade Center and young widows held the fire helmets of their late husbands on their laps.

Although many tears were shed both on stage and in the audience, the concert was hardly a somber occasion.  It was actually a raucous celebration!   One of the largest ovations of the evening was reserved for the 6,000 firefighters, police officers and rescue workers honored for their heroic efforts following attack on the World Trade Center.  Some of these emergency workers, firefighters and police officers joined the celebrities on stage while others laughed and danced in the aisles.

Sir Paul appeared as the final act of the evening.  The entire audience greeted him with a three-minute standing ovation.   Wearing an American flag pin on his baggy FDNY (Fire Department of New York) T-shirt (a souvenir from the previous day's surprise visit to Ladder Company 55), Sir Paul sang five songs: "I'm Down", "Lonely Road", "Lover to a Friend" , "Yesterday," and  his new song "Freedom" which he wrote in the aftermath of  the World Trade Center attack.  Sir Paul also took time to speak to the audience:

"How about tonight, eh?  We did it because we love New York, we Love America and we love the freedom it represents.  Democracy, freedom . . . give me your huddled masses.  Defending freedom - it's what America stands for. That's a small thing those people don't understand. That's what we are fighting for...

"I love you, I love you. I want to thank all the guys and girls who came along tonight. Defending freedom. It what America stands for..."

"This is one of the greatest nights for me.  I want to thank you guys for everything you've done, on behalf of the British, on behalf of  America, on behalf of the world.  My father was a firemen during World Word II in Liverpool.  Liverpool took some heavy bombings. I'm proud of him tonight. I'm proud of all of you guys."

[Earlier in the day, Sir Paul remembered his father's bravery in this way:
"My dad was a firefighter in the Second World War in Liverpool which got a lot
of bombing. I always knew he was a firefighter but by the time I was old enough
to really take that in, he had stopped doing that job. With the attack, it
brought it all back and I am really more proud of him than I have ever been.

"I'm not a firefighter so I couldn't help in that way. I had to do something.
The only thing I can do is write songs and try to entertain people."]

For the concert finale Sir Paul led the all-star cast along with some of the police officers, firefighters and other emergency workers, in a poignant rendition of "Let It Be" followed by a a reprise of "Freedom" sung by all the performers.

As the final bars sounded, a roar went up from the crowd and Sir Paul shouted:

"We did it!  In the name of the whole world, thank you!"
He did it, indeed!  It was an astonishing and unique display of talent and emotion and an extraordinary celebration of the spirit and courage of New York city.

The performance was seen by an audience of 20,000 in Madison Square Garden joined
by three billion viewers worldwide via live television link-ups in 88 countries.  Sir Paul stated his intentions before the concert:

"For me it was a chance to stand up for democracy. A blow of this magnitude against freedom is unacceptable.  The hope is to raise a lot of money and a few spirits."
The show not only raised spirits all over the world, it also promises to be one of the most profitable charitable events in history.   Ticket sales alone have already raised 14 million dollars with millions more expected from callers who viewed the live broadcast on VH1.  In the end, the concert is expected to raise more than $150 million to benefit the Robin Hood Relief Fund, an umbrella charity aiding victims, families, rescue workers and others affected by the tragedies of September 11.

Before the performance, Sir Paul met backstage with some of the New York city heroes.   One police officer, Brendan Murray, asked Sir Paul to autograph his chest.  Seeing this, President Bill Clinton joined them and also signed his name over the officer's heart.  Later, Officer Murray explained, "The reason I'm here is for my pals," and he removed his hat to show where he keeps cards with the names of firefighter pals Arthur Barry and Paul Keating who disappeared in the collapse of the World Trade Center.

President Clinton remarked backstage, "I met children who lost their daddies and I met a lot of people who survived.  This is the first time they've had a chance to clap their hands and shout and dance. This is a great gift to them."

Heather Mills kept a low profile during the concert, but joined in the festivities at the Miramax after-show party which was held at the Hudson Hotel on West 58th Street.   There she danced the night away with Sir Paul and even provided some of the harmonies as the stars sang and frolicked until well past 4:00 a.m.

(kindly submitted by PLUGGED correspondent Joan M. Hopkins)


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