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Area Mourns Death of King of Pop

7/1/2009, 5:38 p.m.

The initial shock of music legend Michael Jackson€s death at his Los Angeles home Thu., June 25 may have worn off, but thousands of grieving fans continue to meet at newsstands, in cyber chat rooms, local bars, and over the airwaves to express their feelings of loss.

€It feels like I€ve lost a family member and I keep crying,€ Hope Brown, 41 of Southeast said. €At first I felt silly crying over an entertainer, but he has been a part of so many people growing up. For every €first,€ I have a Michael Jackson song that was like the theme music.€

Brown was not alone in her feelings of loss. Local radio stations started to receive many requests for Jackson songs that many stations played his music nonstop. For Hasani Ali, 47, who was in prayer and meditation until Saturday afternoon and was unaware of Jackson€s death, hearing so much of Jackson€s music on the radio, made it clear.

€I was listening to WPFW and heard a Michael Jackson song in the middle of a jazz mix. The announcer started talking about how so much of the €Thriller€ album was really jazz, especially with Quincy Jones at the helm, and how losing Michael would affect jazz music. I was like, €Oh, no!€ That€s how I found out M.J. had transitioned,€ Ali said.

Robert Scorpio, programming director for WPGC-FM 95.5, also turned the station€s programming into an all-Jackson format on Fri., June 26 and continued it through Mon., June 29. Scorpio said that in many ways Jackson was considered family and that a lot of District residents were in need of an outlet to grieve.

€[Jackson€s death] happened so quick and it was so unfortunate. In the past, when an artist is lost, we wanted to continue to be an open forum and have our phone lines open to let people grieve,€ Scorpio said.

Listeners of nearly every generation and every race tied up the phone lines to offer their condolences, cry, vent their frustration, and request their favorite Jackson songs.

Arnetta Ayo, 23, said that in addition to feeling sorrow, she also felt some guilt that no one, including family, friends, and fans, were unable to help Jackson beat whatever health problems caused his death. The Silver Spring resident believes Jackson should still be alive.

€The tragedy is that we all kept saying how weak and [frail] he was getting, but no one did anything to help him. There were so many jokes about him being in his pajamas, and about his skin color, and now that he is gone, there is nothing but tears from those same people,€ Ayo said. €In the end what mattered was his life and his music, not any of that other stuff.€

Scorpio said that emotions ran high at the station as well, as several long-time announcers and programming staff, including Donnie Simpson, shared personal experiences with the Jackson family.

€This is such a tragic moment around the station and the world. A lot of the performers we play on the air have been influenced by Michael Jackson,€ Scorpio said.

€His death was an absolute shocker.€

€With Mike there were so many things out there in the media about him that you couldn€t know what was real and [what was] not. When the whole trial thing took place a few years ago, he looked sick and weak, and of course, we were concerned about plastic surgeries and skin problems, but to die? No, we weren€t expecting that,€ Scorpio said.

Scorpio said WPGC-FM will continue to play Jackson€s music as a kind of therapy for listeners.

€It is simply amazing the number of cultures, ages, and ethnicities Mike had touched and we want to continue this type of outreach and therapy to our listeners who want to dial us up and talk about the legend that still is Michael Jackson,€ Scorpio said.