by Sharon Stevens
The Amarillo Globe News issue of September 7, 2011 contained the note; “Today in History-In 1940 Nazi Germany began its eight month blitz during World War II with the first air attack on London” This date in history brought back my memories of the aftermath of September 11th.
On September 15, 2001, just four days after the destruction of the World Trade Center, my mother and I were sitting in the audience at the Amarillo Globe News Center for the Performing Arts waiting for the overture of Amarillo Opera’s “Kismet”. My mother, Mildred Freeman, a Bravo supporter with the opera for many years invited me to accompany her as a birthday gift.
As always Artistic Director, Mila Gibson appeared onstage to introduce and thank everyone for their support. This year was truly somber as the tragedy was still unfolding in New York, the devastation overwhelming.
Mila related how after Desert Storm she had considered postponing the opera, and that Margaret Harper shared her story during the war years. Margaret related that her husband Dr. Ples Harper worked with government intelligence in London England. In between bombings they still attended concerts and performances in the city parks. This was something that not only lifted everyone’s spirit, but showed the enemy they could not be cowed, and they would not back down.
That evening, even the program reminded us of all that we treasure in our city and brought out all that was good that surrounds us. It contained the names of the performers onstage and within the orchestra pit, most students and professors of Amarillo College and WTAMU. The technical crew with lights, sound, costumes and sets were also listed every page was filled with colorful advertisements supported by every business in the Amarillo and Canyon area. Truly, as always, a community endeavor.
Ten years later I wished I could remember Mila’s exact words. Not only did she bring up such wonderful memories of our beloved Margaret Harper, but she touched on all that brings us joy and solace throughout history, in all wars, in all pain, down through the centuries and generations. I will never forget as we took our seats that night in 2001 we watched an Amarillo doctor make his way down the aisle visiting with those he knew about the safety of his daughter who worked in New York City. How he and his family must have enjoyed this one night together with music and pageantry without the onslaught of ugly images flooding their sight.
This year’s performance of Amarillo Opera will be in October. “La Boheme” is the age-old story of love and death, poverty and wealth. The heritage and legacy of the arts will continue to live on in the hearts and souls of all who encourage and support the community.
Mila Gibson is no longer the artistic director. The Harper’s, the Brantley’s, the Moore’s, the Raillard’s are all gone now, but they will continue to have the best seats in the house.
With the anniversary of 9/11 we will continue to mourn the lives that were lost. At the same time we will celebrate those who came together then, and continue to minister to those connected to this terrible tragedy now. At the end of the performance I, along with those seated around me will rise and give the cast and crew a standing ovation. We will applaud their efforts to transport each of us beyond the footlights away from our earthly cares for just one moment in time.
I hope they will be able to hear my “BRAVO” from the audience mixed with the chorus of all the Angels in Heaven that took just a moment to stop and listen.