Premiere of ‘America Nine-Eleven’ musical pays tribute to first responders

Actor Dallyn Bayles sings a duet with actress Rebecca Lopez at the premiere of “America Nine-Eleven” musical. The two played a couple who were expecting a child. In the musical, Lopez’s character soon after dies on Flight 93, the hijacked plane that crashed in a Pennsylvania field on 9/11. (Ryan Turner)

The Covey Arts Center and American Freedom Festival honored the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks by premiering the “America Nine-Eleven Musical” on Friday, Sept. 9.

The musical was created to pay tribute to 9/11 first responders with the theme of “lest we forget.” The musical featured world-renowned musicians and artists like violinist Jenny Oaks Baker, singer and actor Dallyn Bayles and cellist Nicole Pinnell.

The musical was split into three acts representing the morning of 9/11, the attacks and the aftermath of the tragedy.

Baker said her experience performing in the musical was “very emotional, but very gratifying.” Though she said 9/11 was a tragic time, the event unified America and instilled patriotism.

“That time (after 9/11) … was difficult, but I love the coming together of a country,” Baker said.

Writer and director Chris Severn said three years ago he was realized the nation was forgetting about what happened on 9/11.

“It occurred to me, there’s nothing like the power of music to tell a story,” he said. “Gradually, this came to life.”

BYU sophomore and Air Force ROTC honor guard Zack Larsen brought his little sister, Sydney, to the production. Zack wanted show his 13-year-old sister, born after the 9/11 attacks, the significance of the event.

“It’s been a very solemn reminder,” Zack said. “It’s been an outstanding tribute to first responders and those involved.”

When first responders in the audience were asked to stand up, North Tooele Fire Chief Randy Willden also had his wife, Sherrie, stand up.

“She’s as much part of the fire department as I am,” Randy said. “When you are a firefighter, you get called up during a big turkey dinner or you get called up in the middle of the night, you need someone to support you, and she always has.”

Sherrie said her husband became a first responder because “he cares about people; he always has.”

Pleasant Grove fire department’s Deputy Chief Drew Engmenn likewise said for the people they protect, it’s often their “worst day.” As a first responder, he is there to not only protect, but also to comfort people in distress.

Severn expressed his wishes to continue the musical each year to honor first responders and remind people of the 9/11 attacks.

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