What began as a social conversation after a dinner party in March has evolved into an epic local production that will be staged Sept. 11 to remember the victims of terror on American soil and to celebrate the spirit of unity that enveloped the nation after the attacks.

Beginning at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2002, in the area surrounding Aggie Memorial Stadium, local patriots and entertainers will cater to a crowd expected to be in the tens of thousands prior to a 6 p.m. concert inside the stadium that will feature exclusively local performers. The road leading to the event has been paved with a resounding community commitment to reclaiming 9/11 for America.

Armed with nothing more than an idea, Las Crucens Elizabeth Cleveland and Mark Medoff quietly felt the pulse of six major governmental entities – Doña Ana County, the City of Las Cruces, New Mexico State University, White Sands Missile Range, Las Cruces Public Schools and the Town of Mesilla – to see whether there would be any interest in staging a small, patriotic concert on the anniversary of the terror attacks.

“The response was huge,” Medoff said. “Everyone not only said, ‘Yes,’ but they also asked what they could do to be involved. In a matter of days, the project steamrolled into something more than Elizabeth or I ever imagined it could be. In all my years in this community, I have never seen anything like the reaction to this proposal.”

The positive feedback continued as Cleveland and Medoff reached out to the business community and local artists, all of whom indicated a strong desire to participate either financially or with in-kind donations and talent.

“I believe that art should help people gain a better understanding of themselves and of the world around them. Art can help people heal; it can be cathartic,” Cleveland said. “I knew that if the artistic community would commit itself, Mark and I could produce an event that would be solemn in its commemoration and celebratory in its message of unity. I think the purpose of art is to make us more compassionate, sensitive human beings, and I believe this event will drive that message home in a profoundly moving way for our community.”

As word spread of the event and artists came forward, Medoff said he soon realized that he was dealing with a “cast of thousands.” He solicited the assistance of Jessie Gonzales, a professional stage manager from Chicago, to work with him to coordinate the choirs, bands and singers who were chosen to participate.

In addition, weekly Wednesday meetings of the Steering Committee kept a close eye on posters, flyers, security, parking, marketing, fund-raising and potential problems.

The scope of the program quickly became so massive, Medoff said, that the only venue large enough to support it was identified as Aggie Memorial Stadium on the NMSU campus.
Using substantial cash and in-kind contributions from the six major underwriters and various donations of goods, services and cash from the private sector and interested community-service organizations, Medoff and Cleveland assigned subcommittees to coordinate marketing, static displays, talent coordination, security, traffic control and program production. Matrix Capital Bank set up a donation account and pledged the support of a management-level employee to coordinate funding.

By mid-August, Medoff and Cleveland said the program details had been nailed down and the event was in the final stages of coordination and pre-production.

“I’m not going to give away all the surprises,” Medoff said, “but people who attend this event should be prepared for unbridled patriotism, solemn commemoration and a fantastic celebration of our unity as a community and a nation. For about four hours, we plan to memorialize what we’ve lost and celebrate the American character that brought us through the tragedy. Every hour has been volunteered and not one dollar of profit will be realized from this event. It’s a labor of love and remembrance, and it’s one of the most spectacular things with which I’ve ever been involved.”

Cleveland said, “On Sept. 11 of this year, I believe that many people will be overwhelmed with feelings of sadness and perhaps a sense of anxiety and fear. If those feelings are not acknowledged and shared in a communal gathering, they may go unexpressed and could turn to anger. Now, more than ever, is the time for compassion and understanding, and I hope, in some small way, that this concert will help create an atmosphere of peace and goodwill in our community.”

What: “We Remember… A Celebration of Unity”

When: Wednesday, Sept 11, 2002 – 4:30 p.m. pre-concert entertainment; 6 p.m. the “We Remember” concert

Where: Aggie Memorial Stadium on the NMSU Campus
Admittance: Free, but please bring a can of food to donate to the local food bank and a candle to light during the ceremony

Restrictions: No backpacks, coolers, umbrellas, metal flagpoles, or ANY flagpoles over 18 inches in length

Photography: Encouraged

Tip of the day: Arrive early (First 5,000 people in the gate will receive a free American flag!) and carpool!

To contribute: The “We Remember” Fund, Matrix Capital Bank, 277 E. Amador Ave., Las Cruces, NM 88001, Account # 0137096608

For more information: 528-3033 or 522-3676