Saturday, June 27, 2009

Michael Jackson: Gone too soon

I danced and sang to his chart-topping music as a kid.

I had his magical microphone and collectible doll.

I went to his sold out concert at Madison Square Garden.

I rushed to the television to watch the network premiere of the video "Remember the Time."

And who could forget playing the "Moonwalker" video game on Sega!?

All those things rushed through my head when I heard the disturbing news that the King of Pop, Michael Jackson had suddenly died on June 25.

I was in the newsroom at the time -- already working overtime on a story/video for -- and discussion began about MJ being rushed to a LA hospital after going into cardiac arrest.

The news startled me, but I figured the King of Pop would undoubtedly pull through. He was that kind of figure and an icon that could survive just about anything. He had overcome allegations of child molestation and other health issues in the past.

Shortly after, his death was announced, sending editors scattering throughout the newsroom. I quickly began texting friends and family members: "Michael Jackson is dead."

Many didn't want to believe it or told me that television was reporting he was still in a coma, etc. Some thought it was a joke. But it was not.

Since I happened to be in the newsroom at the time of the announcement, I got pulled into the newspaper's coverage on the public reaction to Jackson's death. (Click here to read the article)

I went out to the Garden State Plaza Mall in Paramus, N.J. and the nearby Best Buy to talk to shoppers and store employees. All were in shock and some were just in disbelief. However, most could recall a moment where Jackson and his music had touched their lives.

Peggy Cook, 46, of Paterson, was one of them.
“He was like my little boyfriend on TV,” said Cook, who grew up watching Jackson. “It’s not real. It’s like being in a car accident and you don’t even know you've been hit.”

One employee at Aldo Accessories in the mall said the news was spreading like wildfire. She had found out via text message.

She said customers of all ages, races and backgrounds were coming into the store to discuss Jackson's untimely passing. It was a clear example of how universal his music was.

In Best Buy, ran into a 20-year-old store employee who said he performed MJ hits at annual high school talent shows. He eventually won for a performance of 'Thriller' during his senior year.

The employee had turned the Home Theater area of Best Buy into a Michael Jackson shrine. His 1992 concert played on a 60-inch flat screen television and his DVDs/CDs were scattered on nearby tables.

Meanwhile, other customers gathered to watch CNN's coverage of Jackson's death on a wall of 60-inch flat screen televisions.

As I talked to people and took photos, I couldn't believe this was real.

It wasn't until I got home and watched Jermaine Jackson speak about his younger brother when I realized how real it truly was. He shared a close bond with Michael and somehow held his composure and addressed the media, asking for respect during their difficult time.

And like a bolt of lightning, it hit me -- Michael Jackson was gone.

The man who gave us endless hits and the Moonwalk had gone home to a place where the paparazzi could no longer follow him.

He was only 50.

Another star gone too soon.

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