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Saying goodbye to the King

June 26, 2009 - Erin O'Neill
I must say it was surreal the way I found out about the passage of my childhood icon, Michael Jackson. I work for a news outlet but on this occasion, when the news spread like wildfire over the internet, I was happily tuned out, enjoying my daughter at gymnastics class.

I received a phone call from a friend who wanted to chat about goings-on in the town and he said he had something else he wanted to tell me but couldn't think of it right then. Almost as soon as we hung up, I got a text message saying "I remembered. King of Pop has died." I didn't have a clue what that meant. He couldn't possibly mean Michael Jackson?

I hadn't seen a TV or heard the radio in a couple hours. I knew Farrah Fawcett had died and Ed McMahon so a third was imminent. But MJ? No way! Then more phone calls: my sister, my dad. My mom was with me. We were floored. I think I am still in shock. Why? Why do I feel like a member of my family, a part of my life has died? Because I grew up with Thriller.

I'm part of the lucky generation that got to witness the awesomeness that was Michael Jackson. He was beyond a star. He was my generation's Elvis. He was enormous, ridiculously talented, a tortured genius the likes of whom we will never see again. The first time I became aware of Michael Jackson was around the time Thriller came out. MTV was huge and was known for playing videos. Billie Jean, Beat It and Thriller were groundbreaking eye candy.

The gloved-one was mysterious and, even with all the controversy that would follow him later in life, I never forgot the man in the sunglasses at the Grammy awards, waving to the girls in the balcony. Many people, much of them younger, are quick to point out all of Jackson's faults, calling him a freak.

They obviously weren't aware of his greatness at the height of his popularity. They obviously were not touched by his music, his contribution to pop culture, his tragic story as an abused child star from Gary, Indiana who went on to rule the world. I was there. I witnessed history and now the world is a sadder place because of his passing.


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The many faces of Michael Jackson