Michael Jackson New York September 2001
Part 1 The Concerts At Madison Square Gardens
After a crazy summer of excitement we are ready to go to New York. Jenny and I have managed to get tickets for both the concerts. We decided to just go for it and get as close as we could to the stage. This is a seated concert, very different to concerts in Europe. The front section, where we wanted to get was VIP only, so we manage to get the next best, the side sections by the stage. The last few months have been spent saving every bit of money we can. For me this means doing as much overtime at work as I can and really economizing every part of my life, from my social life to the food I buy and everything in between. This basically means, other than essential bills I save every penny I earn.
Wednesday 5 September
To try to bring down the costs, Jenny and I share the hotel room with a Scottish fan B. We meet at the airport and get a taxi to our hotel. We are staying at The Pennsylvania Hotel, which is opposite Madison Square Gardens. We choose that hotel as it the closest to the concert venue and 2 blocks from Times Square, the centre of Manhattan Island.
We have arrived in the afternoon and after checking into our hotel we head straight back out to find Michael's hotel. As our European mobile phones don’t work in America, we find a payphone in Times Square to ring Flea.
Flea and her friend arrived 2 days before us, on the Monday and by the time we arrive in New York, they and the other fans have found Michael. He is at The Palace Hotel, beside St Patrick's Cathedral When we got there as usual; there were all the regular Hotel fans from Europe and many other countries.
Everyone was gathered across the street from the side door of the hotel, on 55th Street. A few hours after we arrived, Michael left to go to rehearsals with NSNYC. As usual, it was total chaos when Michael came out of the hotel; the police had no clue what we were like. I remember running down the street through traffic onto Park Avenue, a very busy road. When the car was stopped at the traffic lights, someone opened a window and all the fans "posted" letters and gifts into the car to Michael. The lights changed and we found ourselves in the middle of New York Traffic!! OOOOPPPS !!! As it was our first day, me and my friends decided to stay at the hotel to wait for him to come back, as we hadn't got our bearings yet and were unsure of directions and locations. We guessed he went to Madison Square Gardens but we were not sure of the way there yet.
While we were waiting for Michael to come back, we somehow managed to meet a TV crew from the UK, BBC LIQUID NEWS. and yep I was interviewed. I've never seen that interview, although other fans have told me over the years that they remember seeing me.
After a while fans starting drifting back and we knew Michael was returning. When he came back again it was chaos. The car just went straight into the hotel garage. Fans were all over the street, stopping traffic, everyone screaming MICHAEL, MICHAEL, trying to see him.
Once he was in the hotel, we all went back across the street, opposite the door of the hotel. It was mainly European fans there and once things had calmed down a bit everyone just sat down on the ground, catching up with old friends and making new ones. We did some exploring, found out where the nearest food shops were, found out where Times Square was in relation to where Michael was staying. Some fans had found out that the rest of the Jackson family were staying at The Plaza Hotel a few streets away and they spent some time there to try to see other Jackson family members.
We stayed out quiet late but Michael didn't leave the hotel again. As it got later and later fans started drifting away and we decided to go back to our hotel too. It had been a very long day, travelling from Europe and seeing Michael and being with the fans again.
Thursday 6 September
Another hot sunny day in New York. We wake early and head back out to The Palace hotel. The whole city seems to have a MICHAEL MANIA buzz. At the hotel, we see all the fans again. Even though we are in New York, we to settle into the same routines as on previous Michael trips. Our European mobile phones don’t work here, so it’s harder to find information. Fans come and go from the hotel all day but I mostly just stay in the same spot.
Sometime in the afternoon, word suddenly round that Michael was going to the MTV Awards being held that night. We knew they were taking place but none of us took much interest as we were only there to see Michael, not random other celebs!!
One minute we were sunbathing outside The Palace Hotel, waiting for him to do something, the next we were trying to get uptown to see him at the Award show. I decided to stay at the hotel to see him leave, as I knew there was no way I would get to see him at the Award show.
When he left, we went back to our hotel to try to see if it was on TV, but we didn't have MTV! We went back down to Michael’s hotel but we missed him arriving back.
Everyone was so shocked when we found out that he did a surprise guest performance with NYSNC. The day before we knew he was rehearsing with them but we all thought it was for the MSG concerts!!
Friday 7 September
OMG the day of the first concert
Michael Mania has taken over New York!! We go down to The Palace Hotel as usual but we know we probably won’t see Michael until the concert. It’s just so amazing to be with all the fans, knowing that in a few short hours we will see Michael performing.
On the ticket it says 7.40 pm sharp. So in the afternoon we decide to leave The Palace Hotel, get something to eat and go back to our hotel to get ready. As we are across the street from the concert venue we know we won’t get to see Michael leave.
About 6.30 pm we head across the street to Madison Square Gardens. We know we are early but we wanted to experience all the excitement, and see if we can get some merchandise. The atmosphere as we enter the venue is amazing. We manage to get a t-shirt and concert program and decide to go into the arena and find our seats. We know there is a VIP red carpet but we know there would be so many people there , mostly those not going to the concert that we would probably not get anywhere near the front to see Michael arrive.
As we find our seats we cannot believe where we are being directed to. We knew we had good seats but this we were not expecting. We are in the middle tier right at the stage, section 210. As we take our seats, we recognise other fans around us, and we remember that we got these tickets from one of the fan sites.
We try to take everything in, how near we are to the stage, the size of the arena. Suddenly we see a commotion, and hear some screams, and lots of people gathering in one section of the arena. We take a closer look through our binoculars and realize its Navi in full costume going to his seat!! People think its Michael, and we just watch all the commotions until people realize it’s not. All part of the fun and excitement.
Eventually the lights go down. My heart starts racing, here we go.
Michael has finally arrived with Elizabeth and they are directly in front of us!!!
They are in a box at the other side of the stage and even when the lights go down we can see them.
We spend most of the first part of the show just watching Michael through our binoculars. We do crazy things to try to get his attention, waving our flags, jumping up and down and screaming so much. We don’t care about watching what’s on stage as Michael is sitting directly across from us. As a result we miss most of the performances but we don’t care. We didn't travel half way across the world to see Usher or Whitney or Destiny’s Child!!
Then comes the part we are waiting for Michael’s performance.
The noise, the atmosphere, there’s no way to describe it. It resonates through you, leaving you breathless, and you just can’t take it all in. We are so used to seeing Michael in day to day life, in a car, at a hotel, etc. that we sometimes forget that he is Michael Jackson the performer. To us he is just Michael, but seeing him onstage, he is transformed into this magical being. Time stands still and even though there are many breaks between songs and things which don’t seem right, just being able to see Michael onstage, is spellbinding.
Eventually the show ends and we make our way out of the building.
The after party is at Tavern On The Green, near central park. Traffic is crazy around Madison Square Gardens and Times Square, so we decide to walk there. We walk as fast as we can but it takes us along time. By the time we get to Tavern On The Green Michael has arrived. Most of the fans from The Palace Hotel are there and some of them saw Michael arrive.
This party at Tavern On The Green was part of the VIP concert package. We had decided not to get the VIP concert ticket and dinner package so that we could go to the second concert. But some fans did and they were able to go into Tavern On The Green.
The rest of us stayed at the entrance, waiting for Michael to leave. He stayed about an hour and then suddenly the car came out of the VIP entrance and we were off, running after the car, through the streets, back down to The Palace Hotel. We were not fast enough though and by the time we reached the hotel, Michael had arrived back. Some fans who had not stayed at Tavern On The Green saw him return.
By now it was very late, actually early morning and we decided it was time to go back to our hotel.
Saturday 8 September
As soon as we wake we head straight back to The Palace Hotel. It’s such a perfect time, the warm glow of happiness, sitting in the sun, knowing that Michael is the hotel, surrounded by fans who have all shared the most magical few hours of the concert the night before and knowing that in 2 days’ time we will experience it all again.
Today, one of the UK fan clubs MJNI (Michael Jackson News International) have organised a fan event at Webster Hall. We had bought tickets to it, but in the end decided not to go. While we really enjoy MJNI’s events, it doesn't feel right to be anywhere other than at Michael's hotel.
In the afternoon, many fans leave to go to the event but I decide to stay at The Palace Hotel.
Nothing much happens, Michael does not go out and eventually the fans that went to the fan club event come back to The Palace Hotel.
Sunday 9 September
Another quiet day, much the same as Saturday. Again we spend the day sitting in the sun with the other fans outside The Palace Hotel. Even though we are in New York, it’s not a time for touristy sightseeing. The only place we want to be is at Michael’s hotel. As our phones don’t work, the only way of staying in contact with the other fans is to be at the hotel. Just like in London we only leave for food runs and toilet breaks.
Monday 10 September
The day of the second concert and our last full day in New York. Like many European fans we had decided to fly home on soon after the second concert.
Like on the other concert day, we spend most of the day with the other fans at The Palace Hotel and in the afternoon go back to our hotel to get ready for the concert.
If it is possible we are even more excited than on Friday, as we know what we are about to experience.
There is no red carpet for the Monday concert so people are just going straight into the arena.
We check our tickets and go to find our seats. This time we are on the other side of the arena. OH MY GOOODDDNESSSSS Just like at the Friday concert we are at the side of the stage, and oh can we really believe it, we look down and see the VIP box, where Michael sat with Elizabeth a few rows in front of us. This time we are almost directly BEHIND Michael. This is insane; we can’t believe we can be this lucky
Now we are soo glad we decided to get the second concert ticket instead of the VIP concert and dinner package for the Friday concert.
We watch more of the first part of the show this time, but we can still watch Michael too. The sparkles on his jacket make him very easy to find, even when the lights are down.
All too soon the concert ends.
Monday’s concert was very different to Friday’s concert. It was shorter and seemed more together.
After the concert we took our time leaving the venue. We meet up with other fans as we leave and we sing Michael;s new song YOU ROCK MY WORLD as we leave the building and make our way back down to The Palace Hotel. We know we have missed Michael arriving back but that’s OK, we just have to be with the other fans.
Many fans, including us are due to fly home tomorrow so we stay out very late, not wanting the concert happiness to go, not wanting the magic times to end.
Eventually we leave, as we know we have a long day ahead of us. We say goodbye to the fans who are still there and wish everyone a safe trip home. We wonder when we will all meet again.
Part 2 Stranded In A City Attacked by Terrorists
Tuesday 11 September
Even though it was late when we got back to our hotel, we decide to get up early. During our time here we have seen the huge queue at the checkout desk every morning and we don’t want to waste any of the short time we have left in a hotel queue. Our flights back to Ireland and Scotland are in the evening, so we decide to check out of the hotel around 8 am and go straight to The Palace Hotel. Our plan is to spend most of the day with the other fans and then go to the airport in the afternoon.
We eventually get to The Palace Hotel around 8.30 am. We find a spot to put our luggage and spread out our flags and banners on top of the cases. There are a few fans around, who are lying on the ground, looking up at the sky but as many were here late last night, most fans are in bed in their hotels.
Around 9 am, I decide to do a breakfast run. As we had our luggage with us this morning, we didn't stop for our usual breakfast on the way to The Palace Hotel. I decide to go to the deli on Madison Avenue, around the corner from The Palace Hotel.
As I walk down the street there’s a strange atmosphere, people are running. Suddenly I look up, down Madison Avenue and in the distance, way at the end of the island where The Statue of Liberty is I see a huge mushroom of smoke. My brain takes a few minutes to register what I am seeing. All around me, people are screaming, running down the street pointing to the smoke in the sky.
Something in me recognizes something very bad has happened and I run back to my friends at The Palace Hotel, all thoughts of food forgotten.
All the fans know something has happened but we don’t know what. Some fans have Walkman’s and turn on the radio, we try to ask people in the streets and shops but we don’t fully understand what is going on. All around us people are running and screaming.
Finally I decide to go into The Palace Hotel and ask the hotel reception. At last someone tells me the horrible truth, that terrorists have attacked New York and flown planes into The World Trade Centre. When I tell her that many of us were due to fly home to Europe today, she tells me that the airports are closed and that we will not be going home today. Her advice was to go back to the hotel we had just left and make sure we have somewhere safe for tonight and that we can work out what to do tomorrow.
In shock I go back out to my friends who have also found out the horrible truth. I kick into survival mode and tell my friends to stay at The Palace Hotel with our luggage. We have to have somewhere safe tonight, that’s the most important thing right now. So about 10 am I leave the Palace Hotel and make my way back to our hotel. As I walk through the streets of Manhattan, through Times Square and back to Madison Square Gardens, I don’t really take in what I’m seeing and experiencing. All around me, people are screaming, running, pointing to the sky. As I pass Grand Central Station, people are pouring out, the trains have been stopped, streams of people heading to the bridges, trying to get off the island, and all the while a never ending scream of emergency vehicles and police car sirens.
When I get to the hotel, there’s a huge queue of people. It seems many people have realized that they need somewhere to stay tonight. The hotel staff keep going up and down the queue, telling people if they don’t have a reservation than they won’t get a room. Every time a staff member comes near me, I explain my situation, that I just checked out this morning, that we are from Europe, due to fly home today but now cant as the airports are closed. All that’s in my mind is that I have to get a room, I have to make sure me and my friends are safe tonight. Slowly, slowly the line moves. I don’t even notice that I haven’t eaten today, or the scared chatter of the other people in the queue or even think about how we are going to get home. Nothing else matters, I just have to get a room and be safe. All else can be sorted later.
Eventually I get to the top of the queue and I’m at last talking to the desk staff. Again I repeat my story, how we have to have a room, that we have been staying for the last week and we only checked out this morning. A few minutes later, I leave the hotel with 3 room keys. I did it; I got us somewhere to stay tonight and not just tonight but for as long as we need to stay. The lady behind the desk even managed to put us back into the same room we had left that morning.
As I leave the hotel, I look at my watch. I can’t believe it, it’s nearly 3 pm!! It’s taken me over 4 hours to to reach the top of the queue. I still haven’t eaten but I know I have to go back to The Palace Hotel as quick as I can. I’m sure everyone must be worried as I have been gone so long. I didn't think it would take this long to get a room for us.
As I race back to The Palace Hotel, the streets are not as crowded but there is a very strong smell of smoke in the air and the sirens have not stopped.
When I get to The Palace Hotel, all the fans are there. My friends have been worried about me but they are so relived that I managed to get somewhere for us to stay. Finally I think about ringing my family. Up till now I was in survival mode, had to make sure we were safe and had no time or chance to ring my family. As soon as I can I join the queue of other fans at the payphone on the corner opposite The Palace Hotel. While I’m in the queue, my friends tell me that Michael is leaving soon. Just as I start to use the phone, I hear the fans scream and run to the hotel. As I talk to my family and let them know I’m OK I see Michael's car come out of the hotel garage, and through the back window of the car I see Michael and the children waving as the car goes down the street.
After I finish talking to my family, all the fans just stay at The Palace Hotel. It’s now nearly 4 pm. I tell my friends about my adventure getting our hotel room back. We decide to stay at the Palace Hotel for the rest of the day. Even though Michael has gone, we don’t want to leave. There are about 50 of us from many countries and we don’t know where to go or what to do. All we know is that we will not be going home today. Many of us are running out of money as this was supposed to be the end of our trip. We wander off to get food and bring our luggage back to our hotel, but we feel safest all together, in a familiar place, outside The Palace Hotel.
As night falls, we know we have to go back to our hotels. Some fans have not been as lucky as us and don’t have a hotel room. We all try to make sure everyone has somewhere to stay, those of us with hotel rooms helping out those who don’t. Just before we leave for the night, we see Michael’s bodyguards walking across the street towards us. They tell us that Michael has told them to check we are all OK They tell us he and the children are safe, that they are in New Jersey and that Michael is worried about us. We tell them most of us have a hotel room and that we are looking after those who don’t. Is this real, is Michael Jackson really making sure we are OK has he really instructed his staff to check up on us???? This day has been too much, how can all this be happening to us….
The bodyguards stay out with us for a while, getting to know us, asking us where we are from. Once they go back into the hotel we all agree it’s time to leave. We don’t know what will happen tomorrow, but we all agree to meet back here in our usual place, at The Palace Hotel. It’s the only way we can stay in contact, the only way we can share information and make sure everyone is OK and its a good idea to have a central point we all know and feel relatively safe at.
We go back to our hotel, bringing with us one of the fans who had no hotel room. The walk back to our hotel, a walk we have done so many times over the last week feels very different now. The streets are very quiet, too quiet. This is New York, the city that never sleeps, yet as we walk through Times Square, there are very few people and no cars. The majority of the huge billboards are in not on. Other than the screaming emergency vehicle sirens, Times Square is silent and in darkness.
We go back to our hotel room and try to make sense of the day. We do not know what tomorrow will bring or when we will get home. We try to watch TV, to find out what’s real and what’s not. It very odd to hear the sirens outside being echoed on TV. Exhausted we try to get some sleep. Before we turn the lights off we make a pile of our clothes, money and passport, just in case the hotel evacuation sirens go off in the middle of the night.
Wednesday 12 September
The first thing we hear as we wake are the never-ending emergency vehicle sirens, a constant reminder that yesterday was real and we are still in New York. Numbly we get dressed and head back out to The Palace Hotel. We don’t know where else to go. We don’t feel safe in our hotel and we don’t feel safe outside.
When we get to The Palace Hotel, we see most of the fans are there. We find out that after everyone left last night, some fans were left, who had no hotel room. They tell us that Michael’s bodyguards came back out and when they heard that they had nowhere to go, they rang Michael. Unbelievably Michael told the bodyguards to bring the fans into the hotel and let them stay in his suite. Is this real, Michael Jackson taking care of us, Michael Jackson making sure fans are safe???
We share information, food, try to make sense of what’s going on. Mostly we just sit around, too scared to go anywhere else. The pay phone at the corner of the street becomes our only lifeline to the outside world. There is a constant queue of fans using it, ringing airlines, ringing family, trying to get home. A lot of the times the calls don’t even get put through, the phone networks drop out randomly and phones calls get cut off.
In the afternoon Michael's bodyguards come back out to see us. They bring us food from the hotel; try to help us get airline information. They tell us Michael has told them to stay and make sure we are OK until the airports have opened and we can go home.
Again we all stay together at The Palace Hotel until it gets dark. Again we try to make sure that everyone has somewhere to stay, and again we bring another fan back with us to our hotel.
Just like the night before we turn on the TV, to see what’s on the news, to see if there is any new information about the airports. Before we turn off the light we make our clothes pile with our money and passports just in case the hotel evacuation sirens go off in the middle of the night. Almost every building in central Manhattan has had hoax bomb threats today and we have heard from other fans that hotel evacuation sirens can happen at any time.
Thursday 13 September
Another day of the same. Waking up to the sirens on the streets, making our way back though a city which has turned into a war zone to meet up with the fans at The Palace Hotel, everyone on the pay phone to airlines and families, trying to get back home. In the afternoon the bodyguards come out to us.
How much longer can this go on, how much longer will we be stranded in a city under attack??
Thursday turns into Friday…..
Finally a breakthrough, we find out the airports will be opening tomorrow, Saturday 15 September. We ring airlines, our families, make sure that we are re-booked on a flight home.
Unfortunately as the airports have been closed for 4 days there is a huge backlog of stranded people and most fans don’t get flights home the day the airports reopen. Somehow I and Jenny have managed to get on the first flight out of New York back to Ireland. We are the lucky ones, we are the first of the fans to make it home.
We arrive back in Ireland Sunday 16 September, 5 days after the life changing events of Tuesday September 11 2001.