11 September 2009


About a month after 9/11, there was a benefit concert in Madison Square Garden to raise money for recovery efforts et cetera. It was full of celebs marching onto the stage to pitch for the fundraising. I watched some of it, and there are two things that stand out in my memory.

One was Steve Buschemi, who it turns out had served with FDNY when he was younger, and had been volunteering. He showed up with the crew he'd been working with, looking haggard—uh, more haggard than usual, that is—and embarrassed by the applause.

The other was Richard Gere, who you may know is a Buddhist. I just found a transcript of what he said.

I think in this situation right now, when, when we have the possibility of taking this energy, this horrendous energy that we're all feeling—and the possibility of turning it into more violence and revenge—we can stop that. We can take that energy and turn it into something else. We can turn it into compassion, into love, into understanding.

the crowd boos loudly

That's apparently unpopular right now, but that's all right.

My friends right now are the cops, the firemen, the emergency workers. Those are the ones who don't ask if you're a good guy or a bad guy if they're going to save you. They don't ask what your religion is when they save you. They just do it because it need to be done.

the crowd cheers

That's the heart that I'm talking about, that's compassion, that's the real thing. That's what we all need to aspire to.

I remember the look on his face when the booing happened. He obviously knew it would be coming. That's walking the walk of fierce compassion.


Thomas Roche said...

Wow. Beautiful. So many years later and in light of recent events, it's particularly telling. It took guts for him to say that, and it's sad that people were unwilling to hear it.

Gere seems like a decent guy. I'll still never forgive him for that stupid Irish accent in "The Jackal," but he seems like a decent guy nonetheless.

Jenea Hayes said...

Right on; I love the very notion of "fierce compassion."

I remember feeling at the time that this was our moment to show the world that we believe our own story, that freedom and openness was what made us strong. And of course I remember well the bitter disappointment of the following months and years when we heard words like "crusade" coming from our officials. Compare our reaction to that of the Norwegians after Breivik.

Thanks for sharing that story.