Thursday, June 28, 2012

Stars turn out to 'fight the fight' against sinkholes

Meadowlands, N.J.--Sinkholes affect 0.0000000000001 out of every 10,000 residents in the United States.  Local, state, and the federal governments spend nearly $2 million annually to cleanup sinkhole-related damage to homes, businesses, parks, business parks, streets, and sidewalks. In 2007, the death toll from these geologic peculiarities reached two--the deadliest year ever recorded. A new home, seemingly sitting safely upon a solid foundation, can quickly succumb to the abrupt and unannounced arrival of a lurking sinkhole. Additionally, the time-consuming paperwork created by sinkholes has claimed four lives over the past six years.

But, does it have to be this way? Sinkhole experts  around the world say absolutely not. "A sinkhole is just a hole that needs some care," said Bobby Wulchuck, a geologist with the State University of New York at Catskill Falls. "Listen, I specialize in sinkholes, and I see firsthand the pain, suffering, and heartache that come along with them. All that's needed is some basic 'things,' as I like to call them, to combat sinkholes. But, apart from these 'things', most importantly we need to raise awareness and funds."

Here in MetLife Stadium in the wetlands of North Jersey--an area not particularly known for sinkholes--a sold-out crowd is expected to take in a slew of top musical performers and singing actors to help raise money for a great cause. This is the fourth annual Sing out of Sinkholes concert and the lineup includes: Madonna, Sting, U2, Elton John, Kanye West, B-52's, the Cranberries, Blink 182, Spin Doctors, Jay-Z, Jay-Y, the Bacon Brothers, Lil' MC Hammered (N.J. officials will not let the 14-year-old drink onstage), Beyonce, Carrie Underwood, Chris Farlowe, Clay Aiken (Claiken) and many more.

Before going on stage, where a crowd of 80,000 await, the superstar rocker Bono kneels down and says a quick prayer. Upon returning to his feet he tries to explain his passion of curbing sinkholes: "The people affected by sinkholes ..." he tried to gather himself but quickly broke into tears, unable to go on. The singer's manager attempted to finish U2's leader's thoughts: "Bono is very passionate about sinkholes and helping all those affected by them. He's just so damn passionate about them that he ..." The manager excused himself.

"Together we can add several zeros to this number and, ultimately, make it come closer to affecting zero people. I mean, it's time to stick it to sinkholes," shouted Sting into the damp microphone, after providing the crowd with the 0.0000000000001 statistic. "Are you with me?"

In the summer of 2008, Madonna, flying from Paris to Philadelphia to film a commercial for Red Bull (it never aired), read an article in AirPages, the in-flight magazine for U.S. Airways,  about a Newport, Rhode Island family that lost their six-car garage to a sinkhole. After that day the battle against sinkholes would never be the same.

Taking the stage, Madonna, the organizer and founder of the concert, led the fanatics in a chant of "We don't need no stinkin' sinkholes," to the beat of Pink Floyd's "We Don't Need No Education." The Material Girl whipped the fans into a fever pitch, and eventually removed the training wheels and on and on went the clamor: "We don't need no stinkin' sinkholes (dada den den). We don't need no stinkin' sinkholes (dada den den). We don't need no stinkin' sinkholes (dada den den)." When Madonna clapped three times, the masses knew exactly what to do: "Hey, sinkholes, leave those kids alone."

Musicians were not the only ones participating, as A-list actors paid a visit to help with the cause."Sinkholes don't have to be sinkholes at all. The cost of a simple cup of coffee can help prevent a simple sinkhole from ever happening. Well, actually, many millions of cups of simple coffee," said Leonardo DiCaprio, standing in front of a poster of a Florida sinkhole, to a group of reporters during the annual Stop and Sink Charity Dinner at the Three Seasons Hotel.

"It doesn't have to be this way," said Sarah Michelle Gellar, backstage preparing to sing a duet with Sara Jessica Parker. "A friend of a friend's cousin saw this guy on the news whose neighbor saw a big sinkhole overseas a couple years ago during a vacation or a business trip, I can't remember which. Anyway, it's time to fight back." Gellar strummed a guitar and Parker elegantly negotiated a harmonica as the stadium fell silent, their powerful words reverberating off the plexi-glass facade of the packed luxury suites. "It ain't no farce ... so just blame karst. When you smile ... you reduce the size of every sinkhole by a kilometer."

At the end of the night all the performers, athletes, actors, and politicians came out on stage one last time, formed a circle, held hands, and walked slowly towards the center. Every Sing out of Sinkholes concert is concluded with this routine, which represents the closing of another sinkhole.

When the stage lights slowly faded to black and the celebrities disappeared, a voice came over the stadium sound system: "Please, check to make sure you have all of your belongings before exiting. Thanks for fighting the fight against those wascally sinkholes."

Madonna smiled and then quickly gave a look that seemed to say, 'Damn, I only have 364 days to prepare for next year's concert."

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