On September 11, 2001 the MS Celebrity Summit - the latest in the fleet of Royal Caribbean's elite cruise liners - docked in the early morning hours at Boston Harbor, the first port of entry from Europe. The crew had been at sea for a week, sailing from France, conducting sea trials, the final phase to ensure the ship was sound and problem free. We had been rehearsing our shows non stop for weeks. Regis and Kathy Lee would arrive on board later in the morning in New York harbor to celebrate the debut of this beautiful mega ship. Walking up the steep steps from the metal deck below, the Boston skyline was clear and blue. With a video camera never far from my reach, I begin filming and laughing with my fellow castmates.
A tremendous airplane took off overhead. I can be heard saying, "Good grief, what was that?!" My friend Les responded, "That's a jumbo jet." He then, explained the dynamics of such a plane. I remember the feeling of eeriness - something so large flying so close. The ship geared up to reverse, beginning the short jaunt to New York harbor. We dashed downstairs for breakfast, getting ready for the exciting day.
Within the hour, we were standing in line at the purser's office to retrieve our passports. On the television hanging on the wall, we saw a building on fire from, what seemed like, a plane that had crashed into it. Thinking it was a scene from a movie, we hardly glanced up and continued our idle gossip detailing happenings from the crew bar, the night before. But the screen never changed and we heard screams, yet no actors. Suddenly we were all quiet. Matt Lauer and Kattie Couric were visibly shaken. We realized it wasn't a movie at all. Things started to move as the MS Celebrity Summit was ordered to change course and sent out to sea indefinitely. All ports of entry were we closed into the United States. We were frightened and isolated.
Once we were able to resume shows, I felt completely useless. Putting on sequins seemed ridiculous and trite. On the day we were finally able to get through to the United States, during a conversation with my mom, I cried wanting to get off the ship to do something I thought would be more meaningful. Singing and dancing seemed futile. How would it look for the show to go on in such a terrible time of need?
Her response is one I have never forgotten and the reason for this post during this surreal time of COVID - 19. She said, "Honey you are giving people hope in a time many of us have none. Thousands have died, more are suffering. If you can give people an hour or two of relief, of escape, you are giving them the greatest gift they can receive at this time."
We are undergoing another scene of unprecedented times. We as artists have a responsibility. People are down. Parents are worried. Children are confused. Your spirit as an artist provides laughter and light in a world that, right now, seems very bleak. The first people I turn to in times of worry are my performer friends because I know at the end of the conversation I will be smiling again.
So to my voice users out there, use this time to share your gift. Sing songs, write fabulous speeches, create pieces of art. Think of this time as a gift of discovery and creation, not of what you are losing or missing out on, but what you are perfecting. Hone your craft, practice your skills to become unstoppable when the dust settles, because it will settle and you will be prepared. We are artists and no one know resilience better. Grab your best 16 bars, let your larger than life personalities shine and impact the world with your positive inspiration. #performerstrong