Singer on quest for ‘a world of love’ Cecilia St. King
Delray woman uses music in attempt to heal
Delray Beach singer- songwriter Cecilia St. King is a selfdescribed inner peacenik. But she’s also a New Yorker, and her instinct is to step forward, not backward.
That may explain why she initially ran toward the flaming Twin Towers on Sept. 11, 2001, then spent days encouraging firefighters with her guitar in the acrid air of the attack’s aftermath, where she is convinced her subsequent throat cancer diagnosis can be traced.
It also explains why she went to Parkland to share her music and empathetic counsel on Feb. 15, the day after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where her relentless optimism was nearly defeated.
“I found myself surrounded by kids, who just naturally gravitated toward me. I was sitting there, and they were talking, and I was talking to them,” says St. King, also a trainer and counselor in Connection Practice, which encourages the teaching of empathy and other emotional skills in schools. “I was trying to help them ease their pain and give them a little comfort. [She begins to cry.] I lived it myself. I lived that intense tragedy myself.”
On Saturday, the Queens-born former Nashville resident and musical vagabond will have a coming-out party of sorts in South Florida at the Center for Spiritual Living in Boca Raton. After spending a few years in South Florida caring for her ailing mother, now deceased, St. King made Delray Beach her permanent home less than a year ago.
The concert will include music she’s played at the Bitter End in Greenwich Village, Nashville’s Bluebird Café, Pete Seeger’s Strawberry Festival in Beacon, N.Y., the United Nations and San Quentin Prison. In January, St. King won the 2018 South Florida Folk Festival’s songwriting competition and an invitation to perform next year at Fort Lauderdale’s Hugh Taylor Birch State Park.
The Boca Raton performance will be interwoven with St. King’s stories about what she’s learned from being at the Twin Towers, being at Stoneman Douglas High Where: Center for Spiritual Living, 2 SW 12th Ave., in Boca Raton When: 7 p.m. Saturday Cost: Tickets cost $30 in advance, $40 at the door. Contact: CeciliaStKing.com. School, beating cancer and her ongoing quest for “a world of love.”
St. King delighted in driving a car in New York, and she had just finished paying the inevitable parking ticket when she walked out onto John Street in Lower Manhattan at 9:05 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001, and noticed one of the World Trade Center towers on fire. As curiosity turned to horror, she remembered her sister worked a block away.
“As is my nature, I tend to run to the roar of the lion. If things are happening, I want to see what’s going on. So I hit the streets and ran toward the World Trade Center,” St. King says.
She stopped when she witnessed in person what the rest of the world would see in edited form: People jumping from the buildings to their deaths.
“People leaping from the building. It was like popcorn. I just remember being so sick. You just can’t even imagine,” she says, through tears. “I can’t imagine what it would have been like to be up there and having to make that choice. But I do talk about it in my performances. I say they made the choice to leap into spirit. My own spiritual belief is that we all have a sacred contract. The only way I can make sense of it is that those people, it was their gift to the world.”
She ran to her sister’s building on 22nd Street when the first tower came down, there learning that her sibling had worked uptown that day. Soon, she would find out that her cousin, 16-year FDNY veteran Michael Carroll, had never returned from the World Trade Center.
The day after the MSD shooting, St. King attended a candlelight vigil in Parkland, where she set up in the crowd and played some of the same songs she had played for firefighters at Ground Zero 17 years earlier: the Beatles’ “Imagine” and “Hey, Jude,” and some originals.
She also performed several renditions of a song by Vaughan Penn, familiar to fans of such TV shows as “Grey’s Anatomy” and “The Hills.” The song, “Eye for an Eye,” from the debut album by contemporary Christian duo Chynna & Vaughan, is inspired by Matthew 5:38 and urges listeners to resist the temptation for hatred and revenge.
That includes MSD shooter Nikolas Cruz, says St. King, who weeps while describing her regret at not having had the opportunity to counsel him.
“My heart just breaks for that young man. Everybody kept saying how evil he was, but he wasn’t evil. He just got lost. The warning signs were there,” she says. “We missed the signs, because we’re so afraid. We’re afraid to open up our hearts. We forget that we belong to each other.”
On Saturday, singer-songwriter Cecilia St. King of Delray Beach will perform at the Center for Spiritual Living in Boca Raton.