Ramona Satar's Vancouver Experience

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U2 rocked my heart, mind and soul like only they could on April 28th and 29th at GM Place. And after 25 years of poignant albums and stellar concerts, it's hard to believe it was my first time seeing them.

I don't just like U2, I psychotically adore this band with every fiber of my very being. It wasn't always that way though. I've always liked them since the time my uncle put on their very first album back in 1980. I bought every album U2 ever put out and all of that, but the obsession didn't begin to manifest until their unprecedented 1987 release: The Joshua Tree.

Wondering why I hadn't ever seen them live until this past April? I chalk it up to Divine Intervention. Some mysterious force always prevented me from seeing U2. First is was my parents not willing to let a 13 year old run off to a rock concert in Vancouver. It was my parents again when they said they would only let me go if I found a "trustworthy" friend to drive down with... Of course no on fit the bill, and the one person who did refused to go because she feared U2 were becoming too secular and immoral (!). Next time around I simply couldn't afford to make the trip to Vancouver because I had just moved out on my own. The final failure was in 2001 when U2 were on their Elevation tour. Depeche Mode was touring the same year and I had to choose whether I went to see them or U2 because it all came down to available funds yet again. I chose Depeche Mode because I knew that U2 would be back again. What I didn't know was that I would be the one who might not be.

I was the esthetician at one of BC's most progressive salons. I was also the province's top makeup artist. I taught for the Cosmetologist Association, I competed nation wide, volunteered my skills for student films, took part in numerous hair shows, photo shoots and presentations. The hours and the physical stress took a toll, even though I was quite young.

In July 2002 I collapsed from an auto immune disease called Systemic Lupus. I won't bore you with all of the details of my condition. But I will tell you that it went undetected for years, I've probably had it my whole life but doctors had no idea and I am the 41st case in the world ever recorded that was this severe. I was not expected to make it through the flare up and was only given 12-48 hours to live. Unbelievably, I pulled through. In the process I suffered a stroke, had to go through 8 rounds of chemotherapy, 14 days of plasma exchange and was in a wheelchair for over a year and a half because of the stroke and being bedridden in hospitals and rehabilitation centers for five months.

How does this relate to U2? When I got home from the hospital I asked someone to put in the U2 Elevation Live from Boston DVD for me to watch, since I couldn't do much else. I was blown away by how incredible that concert was and I was thoroughly upset that I had chosen not to go. Now that I was in a wheelchair, with not much hope of ever getting out of it, it was not likely that I would ever see my beloved U2. This was not something I could accept.

My physiotherapist asked me on our very first meeting what my goal was for her to accomplish for me.
I told her flat out, "You need to get me well enough that I can handle a drive to Vancouver, jumping up and down for 2 1/2 hours in the front row at U2's next concert and the trip back. I don't want to be stuck in handicapped seating"
Sabina responded, "But they do have handicapped seating in GM Place..."
I replied, "Oh sure they do... way up in the third tier of the venue! No way. I want to be in the front row and you have to help me."
Then she asked if I was serious and when they were expected to come to Vancouver.
"I have no idea," I answered, "but we have a lot of work to do until then. I am very serious."

The counsellor at KGH urged me to write a letter to U2 telling them what happened to me and my dream to see them in concert from the front row. I did it, although I thought it was the most stupid thing in the world for a 26 year old to be doing - writing a letter to your favorite band. Somehow I felt it was more fitting for a 13 year old to do that kind of thing.

I have never worked harder in pursuit of a goal, but the reward was the stuff only fantasies are made of.

To the surprise of all of my doctors, specialists and therapists I did make it out of that wheelchair in August 2004. On February 2nd, 2005 at midnight I managed to purchase two GA tickets for U2's Vertigo tour, one for April 28th and one for the 29th. But only 2/3 of the battle was won. I still had to withstand general admission lineups for two days in a row. I was determined I would get to where I wanted to be, though.

Something possessed me to write a second letter to U2 around a month before the concert. I felt a desire to thank them for giving me the drive to push myself to get up back onto my feet. I felt that if it weren't for the band being so inspirational and incredible, and if I had already seen them in concert, I wouldn't have worked as hard and come this far in such a short period of time. I mentioned in the email to Bono that I wished I could give
him a huge thank you hug on stage and for him to "keep an eye out for me, I'll have a sign saying something about wheelchairs".

Within an hour of sending it I received a response from whoever reads those emails. It read "We will forward this to Bono..." I think I almost screamed out loud when I read the text on my screen. I kept the response to myself for a long time, because I was afraid of making more of it than I should. But after that moment I went to work planning every detail of how I would prepare for this concert, especially the sign I was going to take.

My sign was stark black block lettering on a massive piece of white foam board which read "I JUST DITCHED MY WHEELCHAIR... WILL YOU DANCE WITH ME?"

I don't know how I managed to think straight during that last month of waiting. I think most of the time was spent figuring out what shoes I could last in all day, what clothes to wear, makeup... hey, it's a neurotic girl thing. Anything to prevent myself from going into hysterics anytime U2 came on the stereo.

The day of the concert had arrived and I got there at the unGodly hour of 7:30 am. You'd think I might be the only one there since it was so early, but I was #72 in line. At least there was lots of company... other U2 fans just as freaky as me, if not even more so! At the beginning of the day the lineup was quite congenial and fun, but it all turned kind of ugly when I went and got changed for the concert and brought my sign. There were several people (mainly girls, but even a few guys) who felt I should not be allowed to bring in the sign. People who had been friendly with me all day actually turned their backs to me when I came up and said hello to them once I was inside the venue. It pays to be nice to everyone no matter what, though, and luckily I made new friends with everyone on the floor around me, including security. I quickly had everyones support because I thought to bring lots of breath mints and I was sure to share with all of those nice people around me too!

U2 hit the stage with the force of a tsunami at 9:45 pm. It is hard to describe the exact feeling once I saw and heard them live for the first time... probably a combination of exhilaration and an incredible sense of accomplishment. This was my goal being realized which I had set for myself three years earlier and it had finally come to life in brilliant technicolor and surround sound. All that was left to do was soak up every sight, sound and sensation. And of course, there was the small matter of getting Bono to read my sign...

I first propped up my sign during the introduction to the song Miracle Drug. Bono actually stopped what he was saying to read it. All of the people around me were shouting "Keep it up there! He's reading it! Oh my God... he's reading it!!" Then he spoke to me and said, "We'll chat later..." I nodded, lowered my sign and froze for almost a full minute after that. The man now knew where I was.

The next connection I had was at the very beginning of the first encore. Bono emerged out of a billowing cloud of smoke and red lights singing Zoo Station on my side of the circular catwalk. The line of the song goes, "I'm ready... I'm ready for the laughing gas". Bono is famous for altering the lyrics of his songs and that night was no exception. Instead he sang, "I'm ready... I'm ready for the BIG SIGN". The crowd around me went crazy and started shouting to give him what he wants and put up the sign. I had help from whoever could reach to hold it up as high as we could. Bono sauntered his way towards our section of the crowd until he was directly in front.

But just when I thought I might get my moment of ultimate glory, my sign was viciously snatched out of my hand and thrown down. I whipped my head around to face the culprit and demanded to know what she was doing. She very rudely yelled "@*%$ off!". The sign was not blocking her view because she was right against the barricade and I was one person behind it. She was angry because I had gained some attention from Bono, something she was trying desperately to gain herself.

Bono stayed in front of our crowd for a moment miming the shape of a large square and pointing in my general direction. I desperately tried to put the sign back up again, but the crowd was pushing so much that it was next to impossible to maintain some balance and hold it up. He had no choice but to swagger off down the catwalk to join the rest of the band. In the meantime, I was hauled up to the front of the barricade by the gentlemen that were in front of me. Also, the security guards told me that it was fine by them if I wished to keep my sign on the other side of the barricade so it would be visible and so it would not be "damaged". I gather both parties saw what that miserable girl had done and felt that they wanted to rectify the situation as much as possible for me.

If it weren't for them, the single greatest moment of my life probably would have never occurred about five minutes later. Bono, the Edge and Adam were all back on my side of the catwalk performing Mysterious Ways. This time when my sign went up, Bono came right over and just stood directly in front of me smiling. The lyrics to the song had finished, but Larry, Adam and the Edge were still playing the music as if it were an extended version. All of the people around me were screaming Bono's name, but they were all pointing to me... unbelievable! He motioned for me to hand him the sign, which he took and had it projected onto the giant LCD screens for the whole venue to see. The cheers were deafening. He hollered over to the Edge, "Hey Edge! What do you think of this sign?" The Edge read it and laughed, walked away smiling, and started to play the music to Mysterious Ways for a bit longer.

Bono turned back to me and asked into the mic, "This is your sign then?"
"Yes!" I nodded enthusiastically
"So... this is you?" He asked
"Yes!!" - Holy crap... he DID get that email!
"So, you want to dance with me?"
"Oh my God, YES!" I shouted
"Do you want to come up on stage and dance with me"
"YES!!!!"
"Well, come on up. Come and dance with me! Bring her up," he instructed security.

My head was spinning a million miles a second. I could barely fathom what was happening. I was promptly brought back to reality for a moment when I was hauled across the barricade and tossed onto the stage on my butt. In a word, ouch. I looked up at Bono (sigh) and said, "Uh, that sign was for real... I'm going to need a minute to get up". He was very cordial and expressed how sorry he was while helping me to my feet.

That's when Minor Disaster #2 struck: while being dragged over the barricade, my pants slipped a little lower than I would have liked. I was covered thanks to a sweater that was tied around my waist and I immediately yanked up my cargos. With that I tried to make light of the wardrobe malfunction by extending my hand and saying jokingly, "Would you like to get to know me before the rest of my clothes fall off?!'' He simply grabbed my hand and pulled me in for a what seemed like a never-ending hug.

I could have sworn my pants were slipping yet again during this slice of heaven, so I pulled back to check for fear of inadvertently mooning 18,000 people. It was just my sweater (whew!) which dropped to the ground once I moved away from Bono. I thought I'd joke with him a bit more while I had the chance. I put my hands on my hips and asked him sarcastically, "Do you do this kind of thing to everybody?!" He smirked and his eyebrow cocked up past his shades. Then he dropped to the floor, grabbed my sweater and began tying it around my waist for me. I threw my hands up to my head in disbelief and delighted shock. In my head the words "Bono is dressing me!" were pounding in my brain. The audience was now officially going ballistic at the sight of this.
When he finished and stepped back I asked "How do I look?" with a kind of model's pose.
He grinned, looked me up and down and said, "Well... it certainly pays to advertise!"

I gave him my hand again and told him my name. He took my hand, hauled my arms up around his neck while his went right around my waist. He began dancing with me, all the while singing and humming in my ear. He was holding me up while we were swaying in a circle. We chatted a little more and I got lots of hugs and kisses before he set me back down into the audience.

I never imagined that my very first U2 concert would be as spectacular as all of that. I never thought that I would accomplish my goal with such flying colours. But the one thing I was sure of is how incredible U2 is. It's not the unrivaled music they make, the great shows they put on, or even the fact that they've been together for over a quarter century and are still original and relevant in the industry. They are incredible because of their compassion, their spirit and their effort to make that sincere connection to their fans.

The lesson I learned throughout this entire chapter of my life was something Bono himself has always said: "DREAM OUT LOUD". You'll be amazed at what wonderful things you can achieve if you do that one simple thing. I am living proof.


By,
Ramona Satar


---
Ramona's Original letter to Bono
---

From: INFO
Date: Tue Mar 29, 2005 7:16:42 AM US/Pacific
To: Ramona Satar
Subject: RE: See you soon!

Will pass this on to Bono for you....

-----Original Message-----
From: Ramona Satar [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: 29 March 2005 16:07
To: INFO
Subject: See you soon!

Dear Bono,
I wrote you a letter a couple of years ago telling you all about my
struggles with Systemic Lupus. The letter was sent to you through a
friend who apparently was in contact with you... I believe they are in
a kind of fledgling band that U2 were taking under its wing.

In the letter I explained how it was my dream to see you from the front
row by the time you return to British Columbia for your next tour. I
have spent unbelievably long hours in rehab to overcome my disability.
After watching the Elevation DVD, there was no way I wanted to be up on
the third tier of the building in handicapped seating. I am very happy
to report that I did it, and I am going to travel to Vancouver from my
city, Kelowna, to see BOTH of your concerts! By some incredible stroke
of luck I wound up with GA tickets for both nights as well.

My being rehabilitated enough to go to your shows certainly has much to
do with the grace of God, and a lot of blood sweat and tears... but
it's really all because of you. I didn't have any idea when you would
be touring again. All I knew was that I had to work as hard as humanly
possible to get up on my feet and out of that wheelchair by the time
you did. If I didn't care about going that badly, or getting right up
close to the stage, I would not have worked that hard.

You were my goal, and if U2 had not been the greatest band in the world
I would not have worked nearly as hard. I wish I could tell you all of
this personally but you are somewhat out of reach, quite
understandably. I want to thank you, Adam, the Edge and Larry for
making the best music of all of our lives. I want to thank you for
giving me the drive to walk freely again. Essentially you gave me my
life back, you know.

April 28th and 29th will mark the completion of a goal I set into
motion three years ago when I got out of the hospital and watched your
Live from Boston DVD. I can hardly wait! Now that I am well enough I
hope I can possibly get up on stage to give you a thank you hug... one
in a million shot, I know - but my dreams are materializing so far, so
who knows? Keep an eye out for me; I'll be the one with a sign saying
something about wheelchairs, ha ha!

Thank you again for all that you have given me and all that you have
inspired me to do.

Yours truly,

Ramona Satar

6 Comments

Thank you for posting Ramona's story. It's an inspirational tale for all of us, showing that it is possible to realise your dreams! After all, Bono keeps telling us to "dream out loud!" Cheers to Ramona for being so persistent in the pursuit of her dreams!

I just wanted to thank anyone who has taken time to read my story. It means a lot to me. Thank you all so much... And if there is anyone who read this and was there with me, you all became my good friends, even though it was only for one evening. Thank you guys for all of the support.

Heya Ramona (md/bd)! Thanks for posting! :) very cool & inspiring! Been following your story, so its great to see your full story in your own words, and the emails! Cheers & see you in the blue room! lol!
- P8

It was amazing reading your story.. so inspirational, to victims of illness and U2 fans alike. Your accomplishment was amazing; you definitely deserved that hug! Thank you for dreaming out loud, and I'm sure that people that've heard about your story, like I have, will dream out loud too.

Hey Ramona!! You are a true friend and a total star!! Love you chick!!

your story is so amazing and i know how u feel about u2 .i feel the same .dream out loud babe ur a star .love garyxxxxx

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Jonathan published on May 26, 2005 4:00 AM.

Bono: "We Need to Talk" was the previous entry in this blog.

McCartney, Stones, U2 and Madonna lined up for 'Live Aid II': British newspaper is the next entry in this blog.

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