Nearly 60 million people in the United States watched music and film stars pay tribute to real-life heroes during an unprecedented benefit for victims of the terrorist attacks. The telethon was shown

Nearly 60 million people in the United States watched music and film stars pay tribute to real-life heroes during an unprecedented benefit for victims of the terrorist attacks. The telethon was shown Friday night (Sept. 21) on more than 30 networks, including the six biggest broadcasters -- ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, UPN, and the WB. Musical performers included Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, and Mariah Carey.

The broadcast, dubbed "America: A Tribute to Heroes" was seen in an estimated 210 countries. The 59.3 million U.S. viewers who watched on a Friday -- normally one of the least-watched nights of the week -- compares to the 80 million or so who watched the Super Bowl or news coverage the night of the attacks on Sept. 11, Nielsen Media Research said.

Organizers said they won't know until at least today how much money was raised to help the World Trade Center and Pentagon attack victims. The telethon logged 300,000 calls in the first 15 minutes of the live telecast. It was seen on tape on the West Coast.

From Tom Hanks to Julia Roberts, actors made understated appeals for donations, telling stories of innocent people killed and heroic acts. They alternated short speeches with singers such as Willie Nelson and Wyclef Jean, who performed on sets decorated with hundreds of burning candles.

"We are not healers," Hanks said. "We are not protectors of this great nation. We are merely artists, entertainers, here to raise spirits and, we hope, a great deal of money."

Nelson led an all-star version of "America the Beautiful" with Stevie Wonder on harmonica and Mariah Carey, in one of her first public appearances since her breakdown, on backup vocals. Canadian singer Celine Dion, who has performed rarely in public in the past year, sang a version of "God Bless America."

The special was reminiscent of the Live Aid concerts for famine relief in 1985, but that wasn't available across such a wide spectrum of networks.

The star power was intense, and the production complex. Within the first 15 minutes, Bruce Springsteen, Wonder, and Irish rock titans U2 performed on stages in New York, Los Angeles, and London. For security reasons, there was no audience. "This is a prayer for our fallen brothers and sisters," Springsteen said before singing one of his newer songs, "My City of Ruins."

Neil Young performed the late John Lennon's hit, "Imagine." Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers played their defiant "I Won't Back Down." Jean, dressed in stars and stripes, sang Bob Marley's "Redemption Song." Young also joined Eddie Vedder and Mike McCready of Pearl Jam for that group's "Long Road."

With such stars as Tom Cruise, Roberts, and Jim Carrey and a two-hour limit, it was hard to fit in everybody. Meg Ryan, Jack Nicholson, Sylvester Stallone and other celebrities were relegated to the phone bank, answering contributors' calls.

Actor Will Smith appeared with the boxer he's portraying in an upcoming movie, Muhammad Ali, to remind viewers not to target all Muslims in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. "I wouldn't be here representing Islam if it were terrorist," Ali said. "I think all people should know the truth, come to recognize the truth. Islam is peace."


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