We knew it was going to be hard for Pittsburgh to top 2009 when it came to news, It was a year of extreme highs ( Super Bowl and Stanley Cup Championships) to excruciating lows ( the deaths of 3 city police officers and the shooting of 3 women at a locla fitness center ). We even became a player on the world stage by hosting the G-20 Summit.
All these events were defined by the men who played key roles … be they heroes or villains. They were men who made the impact on the year’s biggest stories. In 2010, we didn’t make such grand headlines as a region ( unless you count “snowmaggeddon” ) but we did move the world with individual stories. In particular, the stories of three young women.
Those were the stories that moved me because it was more than just their stories, it was them. There were young women I got to know as newsmakers and people, because I was allowed into their homes and got to know them behind-the-scenes.
The first young women to impress the world were sisters from Ben Avon, Jamie and Ali McMutrie. Both in their 20’s, they had dedicated themselves and their lives to helping orphans in Haiti. Its volunteer work that might have gone unnoticed if not for a deadly earthquake which rocked the country .. and turned these young girls into young heroes.
With Ali McMutrie and her adopted brother Jamie months after the earthquake ordeal in Haiti.
They were suddenly charged with 150 orphaned children with no place to house them, no place to shelter them and very little to feed them. It was their bravery and refusal to leave Haiti without the children that forced the hand of political leaders in this country. They became national celebrities, but when I visited Jamie and Ali at home with their family, there was nothing to indicate that they were super-human. Other than the presence of their adopted brother Fredo, there was no indication of their commitment to Haiti — a commitment that continues with the effort to build their own orphanage in Haiti.
The other young woman the world got to know so well was introduced to me in 2009.
I met Jackie Evancho while serving as emcee at a fund-raising event in November of that year. I introduced the then 9-year-old, expecting her to sing like someone her age. Then she began to sing … and I was in awe. She has the look of a child but the voice of someone well beyond her years. I introduced her to Pittsburgh in a story that ran Christmas eve of 2009.
Who could have imagined the ride Jackie would take in 2010. She got on a national television show … and almost won a competition to get her own show on the Las Vegas strip. She didn’t get Vegas, but does anybody remember the last time you saw the winner of that show perform on stage?
Introducing Jackie Evancho at Variety Childrens Gala in November 2009. Who could have known that night how her star would rise well beyond the borders of Pittsburgh.
Meanwhile, Jackie’s star has risen. A new holiday album. A new CD on the way. Performances in Rockerfeller Center and for the President at the White House. Saturday, 65,000 will fill her hometown stadium to watch her belt out the national anthem before the Winter Classic.
All the while, I have spent time with Jackie and her family and she could not be anymore down to earth and childlike. She is one of four children and, in my visits with her, she is treated and acts like any other child in her family. Sure, she is talented and destined for great things, but her parents have always stressed in our interviews the desire to keep her life normal.
Jamie and Ali McMutrie … and Jackie Evancho. This was their year. They showed the world that ordinary people can do extraordinary things with both talent and tenacity. Its been a pleasure getting to know these amazing females … and will be even more enjoyable to see what the future holds for this trio.
Happy New Year!