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Moving moments from Live 8 in London

The Live 8 benefit concert in London's Hyde Park proves we all speak the same language, NBC's Janet Shamlian writes.

I knew Live 8 was going to be an interesting assignment. How could it not be?

Paul McCartney, U2, Elton John, Madonna and so many more. The world's top musical talent was here, and so was I, standing front and center with a coveted press pass dangling from my neck.

Our NBC crew left early for Hyde Park anticipating all kinds of delays. There were none. A few roads were closed closest to the park, but people just got off the buses or taxis and started walking. The crowd was in a cooperative mood, and no one seemed inclined to look for a shortcut.

Rush to the frontThe gates opened about 90 minutes before the show. Ticket holders had been waiting for this moment. Some had been here 24 hours already, hoping to be one of the first inside. When the moment finally came, it looked like the 50-yard dash. The coveted front row spots went quickly to anyone willing to run for it. They carried coolers and backpacks as well as umbrellas they hoped they wouldn't need. As those last in line straggled in maybe an hour later, I knew their view would be obstructed — if they could see at all. If they were unhappy, you couldn't tell. There were smiles all around.

The platform set up for the international media gave me an excellent view. In the United States, I'm accustomed to being in close quarters with the other television networks and working alongside reporters I know. On this day, I didn't know anyone. A man speaking Spanish to my left; a woman talking in French to my right. It was only each other's language we couldn't understand. "Aren't we lucky to be here?" they smiled to me. "Yes," I smiled back.

‘We welcome the world’
What happened next was something I'll always remember. The concert was starting. There were two large screens on either side of the stage. On them, a live picture of London's famous Big Ben clock tower. The camera zoomed out and Hyde Park was suddenly in view; the stage, the crowd, a sea of people that seemed to go on forever. A voice on the loudspeaker proclaimed, "It's 2 o'clock in London. We welcome the world to Live 8."  The roar from the crowd was almost deafening. It sent shivers through me.

Paul McCartney and U2 took the stage for the opening number. Coldplay and Elton John were next, then Sting and Madonna and so many more gifted artists. The music was phenomenal, surpassed only by the energy of the crowd. I tried to convey this enthusiasm in reports for the Today Show and MSNBC.

An unforgettable face
There is much to say about the audience and the musicians and the event itself. But for me, the most moving moment came halfway through the concert. Activist Bob Geldof, the force behind Live 8 and the Live Aid fundraiser in 1985, took the stage. "Don't believe you can't make a difference," he said. "Take a look." A short video followed. It was an old video, two decades old. I had seen it before. It was a montage of photos showing children starving in Africa. They were beautiful and innocent and dying. Some were cradled in their mother's arms. The moms were starving, too, and couldn't even shed tears for their children because they were so dehydrated themselves. The video ended with the photo of a girl, maybe 3 years old. Her eyes were rolling back into her head. She couldn't have been more than a day away from death. I remembered her. I remembered her face from when the video first aired. It was the kind of picture you can't forget. Geldof then told the crowd, "You made a difference then and you can do it again now."

He then introduced that little girl. She walked onto the stage like a butterfly in first flight. She wore a flowing white skirt which showed off her beautiful skin to advantage. She was simply gorgeous; a poised young woman in her mid-20's. It was almost beyond belief that this was the same person. She survived.

I looked at the French reporter next to me. She was crying. Turns out we spoke the same language after all.