- The Washington Times - Monday, September 24, 2001

Celebration of Australia
turns somber at Wolf Trap

"Celebration" wasn't exactly the favored tune for dancing at the Wolf Trap Associates Ball Friday night. "We Are Family" suited the mood much better.
Due to recent tragic events, the theme of "Celebrating Australia" was muted, though turned into a patriotic battle cry of sorts for both countries. Tiny American flag pins were handed out at the entrance to 1,000 black-tie guests entering the stage of the immense Filene Center where the key decorative note was an outsized photo mural of Sydney's famed harbor and opera house. Some 300 pounds of lamb had been flown in for the occasion from New South Wales. Australian port was served, as well as kiwi fruit and other token culinary gestures from the continent down under. After a long invocation and the playing of the two national anthems, a didgeridoo player sounded his long, muted Aboriginal horn sonorously at the event that was expected to gross a half million dollars for the performing arts park's outreach and education programs.
"The sense is that it's a good time to be with friends," said Terrence Jones, president and chief executive officer of the Wolf Trap Foundation, at the pre-dinner cocktail reception. The spirit of the arts as represented by Wolf Trap, the nation's only performing arts park, can help heal, he added.
"If it is the first time you have been out since tragedy, it is an appropriate time to gather together," he said.
Happily enough, there were relatively few cancellations. "Only a couple of tables bowed out and no one asked for their money back," one organizer reported.
"I just had to come out and hug everyone," said interior designer Carol Lascaris, one of many guests whose determination to attend never wavered for a minute. "I hate to see these bloody terrorists having such an impact that it closes down the arts," Mrs. Lascaris added as friends admired her chic burgundy sheath with bustle by Oscar de la Renta.
Australia's Ambassador Michael Thawley said that nearly 90 of his country's citizens still had not been accounted for and were presumed lost at the World Trade Center. Talking to Tom Rosso, an executive at Lockheed Martin, the ball's main sponsor, Mr. Thawley was the picture of stoic calm, saying that "Australians and Americans always feel at home in the other's country." The Sept. 11 horrors had interrupted a high-powered American-Australian investors forum being held in Washington with Australian Prime Minister John Howard present. Police and the Secret Service had quickly hustled everyone out of the Willard Intercontinental Hotel near the White House.
He was no less somber in his remarks at dinner, telling a hushed crowd that the two countries' "sense of community also carries responsibility to support one another," that "Australia will be with you in any way necessary."
Not your typical lighthearted speech.
Australia was chosen as the ball theme by chairmen Catherine and David Meloy after what Mrs. Meloy, a vice president of Clear Channel Communications in Rockville, said had been a successful previous connection between radio station WBIG and that country during a millennium promotional event.
"When President Bush said to get on with your lives, that means supporting the arts," the statuesque blonde said in support of keeping the ball date on the calendar. The arts, she added, "are what bring peace, joy and beauty to the world and they are needed now more than ever."
A large segment of Virginia's political and legal establishment turned up, including Lt. Gov. John Hager, Reps. Tom Davis and Frank Wolf, and Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark Earley, who was back on the campaign trail after a weeklong suspension of activities following the terrorists' attacks.
The issues, of course, have changed radically since then. "The crisis has created a new set of priorities for the nation and for my state," Mr. Earley noted gravely. "As the next governor, my first and foremost concern has to be the protection of the citizens of Virginia."
Sen. John Warner, who arrived late because of the evening's crucial vote in the Senate on the $15 billion airline industry bailout bill, was unable to offer much encouragement about reopening Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport anytime soon. "We're hopeful, but there's not even a timetable yet," Mr. Warner said, adding that he was confident the country would make use of "every technology known to man to make airline travel secure."
Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta, who also arrived late after helping shepherd the bill through the House of Representatives, was set upon by well-wishers in all directions. A three-year member of the Wolf Trap board from the time when he was a Lockheed Martin vice president, he said his wife, Danealia, had insisted he come to the ball earlier that day, telling him it "would be a good idea to get out of the office and out of the house."
"I'm just thrilled to be here," he said, smiling and looking as though he really meant it after mentioning he has a son who is a pilot with Delta Airlines.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide