TRIBUTE FROM TINSELTOWN: Entertainment priorities wane as the worldsuffers NYC's pain

Los Angeles and New York are so closely linked that it's said when

New York catches a cold, LA sneezes. So when Gotham was shaken to its

core, the shudder felt out here was far more cataclysmic than the

earthquake that had struck the previous Sunday.



Most of the West Coast was still asleep when the shocking sight of a jet

splitting the World Trade Center joined images of Neal Armstrong's walk

on the moon, the Challenger disaster, and JFK Jr.'s salute to his

father's casket as the most indelible in post-war American history. It

was a spectacle far more horrifying than anything any Hollywood producer

ever developed.



Producers conceived of nothing in the aftermath, as the entertainment

industry ground to a complete halt. The Latin Grammys were scrubbed, the

Emmys and a Madonna concert were postponed, studios and agencies closed,

new fall TV lineups were delayed, and the Toronto Film Festival, which

had its wind taken from it, limped to its weekend conclusion.



It seemed of little importance. In a town that lives by ratings, numbers

suddenly gained a more profound meaning: 5,000 souls lost. True heroes

displaced Hollywood's manufactured ones. In our nation's darkest moment,

we saw heroic firemen and policemen sacrificing their lives. Doctors,

nurses, and paramedics working around the clock. Volunteers digging

through rubble on their hands and knees because the faintest of hopes

tells them someone may be breathing underneath.



As the dust and shock of the first day began to settle, Hollywood, too,

stepped in to lend a hand. Studios and networks made significant

donations. Entertainers spoke publicly about the crisis, creating a

catharsis in the way that admired and recognized figures so effectively

can. Benefit performances were staged or planned. And, as always, movie

theaters provided a few hours escape for people who had been living a

nightmare for the past week.



The media can make a greater contribution by dousing the fires of ethnic

hatred that are likely to spread across the US. Sporadic acts of

violence have already occurred against innocent people whose only crime

was being possessed of Middle Eastern features. There are millions of

patriotic Americans who, because of their appearance, will now feel

burning looks of suspicion, distrust, and anger in the backs of their

heads. Should we succumb to such prejudice, the terrorists would have

succeeded in striking a blow in the most vital place of all: our

hearts.



Blessedly for now, the heart of New York remains uplifted by the courage

and compassion of the people who live in its boundaries, or just in its

glow. On Tuesday, September 11, the great city was knocked down. The

next day she stood up, and the rest of the country, and much of the

world, stands with her.



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