Singer on quest for ‘a world of love’ Cecilia St. King

Del­ray woman uses mu­sic in at­tempt to heal

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - Showtime - Broward - - MU­SIC - By Ben Cran­dell

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.”

COUR­TESY

On Satur­day, singer-songwriter Cecilia St. King of Del­ray Beach will per­form at the Cen­ter for Spir­i­tual Liv­ing in Boca Ra­ton.

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