Inside Jackson’s Memorial
“Smile even though your heart is aching…..”
By Alicia Dean
9:45 a.m. Tuesday
“Smile even though your heart is aching…..” Michael Jackson’s voice echoed inside the Staples Center as the first fans began filling the arena.
The mood inside was much more hushed and somber than the scene outside. “Whoa” said one fan as she reached the landing of her seat section and saw the stunning reminder that the event was a memorial service. Lush, towering floral arrangements flanked the stage. A striking big screen image of Jackson looking toward the sky with rays of light shining on the words “In Loving Memory of: Michael Jackson, King of Pop 1958-2009.” Hung above. Everywhere you looked there were tributes and images of Jackson. Some fans became emotional as they flipped through a glossy service program filled with pictures and messages to Michael Jackson from his family and Friends. ” I love him. Michael is with me always. We will carry the light and make the light shine again for Michael and the world.–Tito”. And “To the world Michael Jackson is the greatest. To me, Uncle Michael is even better. I love you beyond life.–Taryll”. Were among the sentiments that filled the pages along with a reflection from one of Jackson’s defense attorneys, Thomas A. Mesereau, Jr which read “I met Michael during a very dark period. The forces of evil were trying to take him away from us. The man I came to know was a kind, gentle soul who wanted to heal the world through music, art, love and decency. He succeded. It was an honor and a privilege to defend him. Rest in peace Michael”
8 a.m. Tuesday
You know something big is happening when there are crowds on the Metro subway in LA.
Michael Jackson fans snapped pictures and showed off their arm bands and best MJ gear as they waited on the platform. Security was tight with law enforcement stationed at every entrance.
Fans clamored to squeeze into packed metro trains. “I can’t believe I got tickets!” And “Where are you from?” Could be heard above the faint sounds of Michael Jackson music being played on ipods. Cheers as train pulled up at the Staples Center.
An army of LAPD officers greeted fans at check points. No tickets, no armbands, no luck if you were trying to get anywhere near the Staples Center.
There were some testy moments as some fans tried to sneak ahead a few spots on the line to the entrance that snakes several blocks.
Officers pulled line jumpers aside and sent them to the back of the line.
7 a.m. Monday
The stars aligned for Michael Jackson fans who arrived at Dodgers Stadium early Monday to claim their tickets and wristbands for the Michael Jackson memorial scheduled for Tuesday at the Staples Center. Both the lines and the wait were short.
Security was tight with checkpoints set up around the stadium. Drivers were stopped and asked to show their vouchers before being allowed to line up behind a police escort leading the way along the winding road toward the stadium entrance.
The procession stopped short of the gate where drivers were told to pull over and wait.
“We’re being told the gates are going to open at eight.” Said LAPD Patrol Officer Green just before 7 a.m. as he patiently moved from car to car answering questions from curious voucher holders. He also said once the gates opened drivers would be allowed to pull into the stadium lot, head toward a check in lane marked with orange cones, show vouchers and Identification and receive the much sought after tickets and wristbands.
“Things should go pretty smoothly and you’ll be on your way out of here quickly,” he said. He was right. Just as fans were settling into the home stretch of their hour wait the gates opened. Game on. Move fast. An army of workers quickly directed fans toward the stadium gates.
First stop – voucher scan. The checkpoint gates took on a party atmosphere as Michael Jackson fans blasted their favorite songs from car radios, while honking at waving at one another. Some checkpoint scanners had trouble reading barcodes from vouchers printed by fans at home. Any barcode that wouldn’t scan had to be entered by hand. The process took less than 2 minutes then on to the next stop.
A sea of orange cones dotted out multiple makeshift drive-thru ticket lanes. Drivers zipped toward open lanes where they handed over their vouchers before having glittering gold armbands placed on them with a firm caution from staffers: “Leave this on through tomorrow or you won’t get in.”
After the bands, came the tickets. Each voucher holder was given two. A logo on the side of the ticket indicated whether they’d made it into the Staples Center or the overflow seating at Nokia Theater.
With tickets and glittering bands in hand drivers were pointed toward the exit and told have a great day.
For fans holding tickets to an event people around the world were clamoring to get into, that was an understatement.