Fans unite throughout city to remember King of Pop
By Marlene Naanes, Ryan Chatelain and Anastasia Economides
Hundreds of New Yorkers braved rain showers, played hooky or took long lunch breaks yesterday to grieve with fellow fans at public showings of Michael Jacksons memorial service.
This is as close as I can get, said Debra Townsend, 59, a fan who cried before a massive video screen outside the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building in Harlem. I wanted to celebrate with people rather than sitting at home.
Scores joined Townsend in Harlem, and down in Times Square, crowds gathered that were much larger than the usual mob. In Chelsea, they started lining up at noon for free tickets to watch the memorial at a theater.
He can look down and say that he saw people coming to see it and that they actually cared for him, said Athina Peterson, 11, of the Bronx, outside the theater.HARLEM
More than 500 people watched the memorial outside the state office building, singing along to his hits and raising their hands like they were at church.
A few short rain showers didnt dampen the mood, many thanking Jesus when the sun returned.
This is Gods way of sending him off right, said Renee Harrison, 45, of Harlem. When the sun comes out its a blessing for Michael.
Natalie Chavis, 45, couldnt make last weeks Apollo Theater memorial and vowed she wouldnt miss this one.
I promised him I was going to be here today, and every year after this, I will go out to California, said Chavis of the Bronx.
Fans parked themselves at several vast video screens showing the proceedings.
Oh, there he is in the hearse, said David Crespo, 31, of the Lower East Side. I feel sad to know that hes in there, but hes at peace. He sang that song Leave Me Alone, and theyre still not leaving him alone, but he doesnt have to hear it anymore.
A hush fell while Jacksons brothers wheeled the gold casket before the stage.
It didnt really hit me until now, actually seeing the casket, said Chalika Ruiz, 30, who came to Duffy Square during lunch. Ever since I could breath air, I have known Michael Jackson. He taught me my ABCs, he taught me I could heal the world he told me to remember the time when we fell in love, and I do.
A nearly packed audience at Chelsea Cinemas sat in the dark to watch the broadcast. They applauded at the same moments the Staples Center crowd did and clapped along to Jennifer Hudsons rendition of Will You Be There.
I wanted to see it on the big screen, said Melinda Hunter, 37, of the Bronx, who attended the viewing with her two children. If I cant be at the Staples Center, I can pretend.
There were outbursts of Thats true! and Beautiful! Beautiful! when speakers such as Motown founder Berry Gordy delivered eulogies.
A resounding applause filled the room, with a handful of people springing to their feet, after the Rev. Al Sharpton told Jacksons three children: There was nothing strange about your daddy. It was strange what he had to deal with.