Organizers are calling it a commemorative event —- the day-long activities leading into the free Beach Boys concert Sunday at Denver’s Civic Center.
It will be Sept. 11, the 10th anniversary of the attacks that changed everything. And the day will begin in a somber way: a memorial event, a procession, remarks from dignitaries, a firing salute, a flyover, the playing of taps. But eventually, the afternoon will transition into the chords of “Good Vibrations.”
It’s unlike most other Sept. 11 tributes, and the organizers and players are well aware of the precarious nature of managing the tone of such an event.
“We’re probably a good choice for this for different reasons,” said Bruce Johnston, a member of the Beach Boys since 1965.
“Maybe people need the music we present —- music that is on the uplifting, not-too-complicated side of things.”
That’s certainly part of the thinking. But it’s clear there were a few buzzwords involved in the planning on Sunday’s event, which has been deemed “Colorado Remembers 9/11.” One of the most important themes of the day: patriotism.
“The governor really wanted a commemorative event in Colorado for the state, for the public to come together and be able to honor life lost and pay tribute to America’s will to prevail,” Melanie Pearlman, executive director of The Cell and one of the “Colorado Remembers 9/11″ organizers, said from her Golden Triangle offices earlier this week.
“He thought it was important to reflect on the events of the day, and he felt that the Colorado Symphony and a band like the Beach Boys brought the expression of patriotism home.
“The Beach Boys transcend all age groups. And they are symbolic of America.”
Local officials approached Pearlman and The Cell to be a part of the event because the nonprofit’s history is interwoven with 9/11 and its aftermath. The Cell, also known as the Counterterrorism Education Learning Lab, is a one-of-a-kind exhibit that examines the threats of a post- 9/11 world. It’s located across from the Denver Art Museum’s angular Hamilton Building.
“The vision of The Cell and empowering citizens to help combat the threat of terrorism, it was all influenced by the events of 9/11,” said Pearlman. “My benefactor’s vision was to help complement the government’s efforts in protecting our community in any way we can.”
And part of that mission ties in with Sunday’s remembrance of the worst act of terrorism in U.S. history.
The event begins at 1 p.m., and participants are encouraged to bring blankets and low-backed chairs. In addition to the procession and flyover, there will also be short remarks from Gov. John Hickenlooper, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, and Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennett.
Music will follow from Tyler Ward and the Beach Boys, who will be playing with the Colorado Symphony.
Mangled artifacts from the World Trade Center will also be on display.
“These artifacts serve as a stark reminder to Colorado, to Denver, indeed to all of us as Americans, of our obligation to remain vigilant and work together to keep our states and our country safe and secure,” Hancock said in a statement.
Indeed, the physical structures are potent reminders of a day we hardly need reminding of. Beach Boy Johnston remembers the morning of Sept. 11, 2001 with a crystalline sharpness.
“My son was away in Europe for college, and he woke me up that morning,” said Johnston. “He said, ‘Daddy, I’m here in the common room at the university. Do you see what’s happening?’ All of their TVs switched over to what was going on in New York, and he called me right away. It shocked Americans. It shocked the world.
“But on the 10th anniversary, hopefully, it’s a more gentle time to think about it. (The Beach Boys) have been around for all these years, and they might have selected us to keep it a little calmer. Sometimes when you’re calm, you have great thoughts.
“So maybe we fit in with having a calmer time while people think about and digest 9/11, which was the worst event in my life that I observed.”
Colorado Remembers 9/11.
Civic Center, Colfax Avenue and Broadway, featuring a military flyover, speeches from local government officials and a concert from Tyler Ward and the Beach Boys featuring the Colorado Symphony. 1 p.m. Sunday. Free. thecell.org/events