For more than 130 years, the Statue of Liberty has stood as a towering, globally recognized symbol of hope, freedom and justice.
So an image of Lady Liberty’s silhouette illuminated against an auburn New York sky aptly marked the beginning of Saturday’s 30-minute special “9/11, Coming Together,” presented by the Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square.
Commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Saturday’s program commenced at 8:46 a.m. — symbolizing the moment the first hijacked plane crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City.
The 30-minute program featured uplifting performances from the choir and orchestra that were recorded during past “Music & the Spoken Word” broadcasts. Highlights included “You Raise Me Up,” “Peace Like a River,” “Wayfaring Stranger,” “Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep,” “One Person” and “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.”
Veteran Latter-day Saint television journalist Jane Clayson Johnson hosted the event, which aired across a series of Tabernacle Choir, Church and BYU online media platforms.
The events of 9/11 will forever remain with Clayson Johnson. She was co-anchoring the CBS News early morning show in New York City as the tragedy unfolded.
“As live reports of the attacks went out, the world turned its eyes to the twin towers,” said Clayson Johnson from the Eagle Rock (New Jersey) September 11th Memorial that overlooks Manhattan Island. “Never before had so many, in so many nations, witnessed a tragedy like this one, in real time. Families, neighbors, students and co-workers watched the coverage side by side.”
The wounds of 9/11, she added, were felt by the entire human family.
“And, as we suffered together, seeds of compassion, mutual understanding and tolerance began to grow among us. Join The Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square as we look back, remember and commemorate 9/11: a world coming together.”
Interspersed between the choir and orchestra performances were 9/11 reflections from individuals from 10 nations. Many spoke in their native tongues.
“I believe, just at the moment when everyone found out what happened, the whole world came together to mourn together and to think about what really happened there,” said a German woman named Angie. “No matter where in the world you were, everyone shared the pain of the victims and the bereaved.”
Through the heartache and tears, said Clayson Johnson, people across the globe “found themselves counting their blessings and cherishing the gift of another day.”
Speaking in her native Portuguese, a Brazilian woman named Edeleine spoke of how Sept. 11 “brought home in my life the desire to live more gratefully, and not just think about me, but about others.”
Witnessing people open their hearts to one another was one of the “greatest blessings of 9/11,” said Clayson Johnson. “There truly are angels among us, everywhere.”
Tabernacle Choir fans will forever associate actress Kristin Chenoweth’s performance of the song “Angels Among Us” with the choir’s popular 2019 Christmas concert television special. But on a day set aside to remember the brave actions of many on 9/11, the song’s words seemed written for Saturday’s broadcast:
Oh I believe there are angels among us
Sent down to us from somewhere up above
They come to you and me in our darkest hours
To show us how to live, to teach us how to give
To guide us with the light of love
“9/11, Coming Together” also saluted 9/11’s many first responders who selflessly performed their duties to save lives.
“Many of these first responders were not on duty when the tragedy struck, but they answered a call from within,” said Clayson Johnson. “For them, rushing to the rescue was more than a job. It was a mission. And fulfilling that mission meant putting others’ needs above their own. Many accounts from 9/11 have inspired us to be better, but none more than the true stories of those who willingly chose to raise us up by the sacrifice of their safety and, for too many, their lives.”
A United States citizen named Logan added that many today are fascinated by superheroes. “But I think we have real-life examples of heroism when we hear the stories and see the images of first responders on 9/11.”
Saturday’s program concluded where the tragic events of 9/11 began. From a spot in Liberty Park overlooking the World Trade Center campus, Clayson Johnson said people emerged from the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, by coming together.
“And for a brief moment, many found that the world could indeed be one in hope and unity,” she said. “Believing that again now is the legacy of 9/11 for the rising generation — a legacy they can’t afford to be without, and a gift we will be blessed to give them.”
On Sunday, Sept. 12, an encore stream and special broadcast of “Music & the Spoken Word” will air at 9:30 a.m. (MDT) on the choir’s YouTube channel, Facebook page, TheTabernacleChoir.org website and also Broadcasts.ChurchofJesusChrist.org, KSL TV (Channel 5), KSL.com, the KSL TV app, BYUtv, BYUtv.org and the BYUtv app.