Leading stars from the worlds of music, film and television held a televised pledge drive Friday to aid victims of the U.S. terrorist attacks and their families. The event also honored the heroism of those who died at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Most U.S. television networks broadcast the two-hour program, called "America: A Tribute to Heroes". The fundraising telethon was also aired on more than 8,000 U.S. radio stations, and broadcast internationally on the Voice of America.
There was no single host for the televised celebration. Instead, a series of narrators told stories of heroism.
Actors Jimmy Smits and Dennis Franz of the show "NYPD Blue", a series about the New York police department, told the story of New York police officer Jim Leahy. Officer Leahy was killed as he tried to rescue trapped occupants of Tower One of the World Trade Center, when it collapsed. "Officer Leahy and his wife have three children, and New York has hundreds more like him. Cops, who are willing to sacrifice their lives in an instant for people they do not know," Mr. Smits said. Mr. Franz added that these were "men and women whose physical courage has inspired a nation, and whose nobility in the face of danger has given New York City a new reason to be proud."
The televised event was low-key, and respectful, as artist followed artist on the candle-lit sound stages of New York and Los Angeles. One of the musical entertainers was Billy Joel, who was joined by others such as Tom Petty and Mariah Carey.
Among the many celebrities, the former boxer Muhammad Ali, who notes he has been a Muslim for nearly 40 years, spoke of his abhorrence of violence done in the name of Islam. "Islam is for peace," he said.
Children from an Islamic school echoed that sentiment. "I want this world to change back into a normal place," said one child during the broadcast. Another child explained that a normal place would be "peaceful and we could play together and have fun, laugh together." Muslim children spoke of their fear of harassment and narrators, including actress Lucy Liu, urged tolerance for people of other religions and ethnic groups.
Entertainers celebrated the heroism of those who died while they struggled to help others. Actor Kelsey Grammer quoted another American hero who was cut down in the prime of life, President John Kennedy. "In his inaugural address, President Kennedy declared 'Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardships, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.' That is the challenge President Kennedy put before us 40 years ago, and now, confronted by evil, we must rise to the occasion," Mr. Grammer said.
The highlight of the evening came at the end of the two-hour program, when country singer Willy Nelson joined a stage filled with entertainers in a rough, but heartfelt, rendition of "America the Beautiful."
Some of Hollywood's top names manned the phones for the telethon, accepting promises of donations from viewers at home. They included actors Al Pacino, Jack Nicholson, Robin Williams, Halle Berry, and John Cusack.
Actress Julia Roberts has donated $2-million to charities for the victims. She urged viewers to call by telephone with their donations, as she offered a word of encouragement and hope. "Life is so precious," she said. "Please, please, let us love one another. Live each day, reach out to each other, be kind to each other. Peace be with you. God is great.
Organizers hope the telethon will raise as much as $30-million, with the proceeds going to the United Way charity and the September Eleventh Fund, which was established to help the victims and their families.