Yesterday evening, being utterly exhausted from watching the heart-breaking non-stop TV-coverage of the tenth anniversary of 9/11, some friends and I decided to take a break by attending a wonderful non-9/11 “celebration of music and art from the 17th to 19th centuries” in the central court of the Spencer Museum of Art on the KU campus. We had great seats on the front row, and we were in for a real treat. On hand were two superb artists from the KU School of Music, vocalist Genaro Mendez, accompanied on the piano by Robert Hiller, in a concert of songs by Purcell, Beethoven, Liszt, and Tosti.
Moments before the concert began, I noticed that the dapper-looking gentleman in his 60’s sitting on my right, who seemed to be saving a couple of seats to his right, kept turning his head to look at other folks who were arriving for the concert. Trying to make chit-chat, I smiled and asked him, “Are you waiting for friends?”
“No,” he replied woefully, “I have no friends.”
“Oh, you poor man,” I mumbled sympathetically. “Would you like a hug?”
His face broke out in a smile, so I reached over and hugged him. Then I heard someone laughing behind us. I turned to look. It was Joyce Castle, the opera singer, now also on the music faculty at KU. “You should hug him back,” she said to the stranger I had just hugged. Which he did, promptly. And then the wonderful concert began.
At the reception following the concert, someone told me that the dapper-looking stranger whom I had hugged so spontaneously, and who had hugged me back with equal enthusiasm, was Shade Little, the husband of KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little.
And that’s how I will choose to remember September 11, 2011.