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Saying goodbye to the great Michael Jackson

July 2009

Thursday, June 25 started just like any other day. I arrived at work at the UCLA School of Medicine and conducted my experiments in the laboratory as usual. At 3pm I looked out the window and noticed several helicopters swarming around.

This was no strange occurrence at UCLA: Nestled between Bel Air, Homley Hills, and Brentwood, it is where many celebrities come for their medical emergencies. This time was different. I looked up and counted nine helicopters. By 4pm numerous camera crews were lined up next to the hospital. Dozens of police cars and motorcycles blocked off the street. Was it Obama? The Pope?

No. Thursday, June 25 was the day the world lost the most influential pop culture artist of all time, one of the greatest musical talents who ever lived, the man who is behind the soundtrack to my youth, the superstar who like magic walked on the moon, the legendary King of Pop, Michael Jackson.

Photo: Molly Newborn, click for larger version

At 5pm I looked out the laboratory window that faced the UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center. A crowd consisting of several hundred fans, reporters and camera crews had gathered at the front doors. I joined them. Shocked and grief stricken, the crowd of all ages chanted his name. Michael Jackson crossed all borders and boundaries, entertaining and inspiring people in every corner of our world. I couldn’t believe it. It must be a hoax, I thought.

Only the great MJ could pull off a stunt like this – a promotional act, I assumed, to broadcast his upcoming 50 shows, which had sold out in only five hours for almost $90 million.

At 7pm, I looked over at the rooftop of the Medical Center and saw a helicopter take off and fly over the parking lot. It was no hoax at all. Our Michael was gone.

The crowd grew in front of the Medical Center as the night progressed. There was a strange mix of emotions. Some people were crying; others danced and sang to Michael’s music. Camera crews from all over the world recorded the scene to show their audiences back home. An Indian reporter asked me why I was there. I told him I was a big MJ fan, and at a time like this wanted to be with the fans as we shared our memories.

On Saturday I went to Hollywood Blvd. Michael’s star was completely covered by a mountain of flowers, cards, letters and posters. Camera crews were camped out next to it, recording the nonstop stream of fans as they came.

I drove down Sunset to the house he had rented. More flowers, posters, letters and cards were placed out front on the other side of the police tape. More media were camped out there as well. I placed a card next to a white candle that someone had left.

Millions of fans all over the world are having a hard time believing that the Michael Jackson has died. My grandparents had Fred Astaire, my parents had Elvis, and I had Michael Jackson. In essence he will live on in what he has left us – the music and dance that has influenced pop



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