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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Cromity and Day: United by Music by Lani Conway

Printed from The Fort-Green Patch News September. 12. 2011

Dennis Day (left) and Steve Cromity (right) performed a 9/11 tribute concert at last night at Two Steps Down. Credit Lani Conway
Cromity and Day after filming a scene on the Brooklyn Bridge for "Unfinished Business," a 9/11 film documentary produced by Day Credit Lani Conway
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Though they shared a bond forged during the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, Fort Greene resident Steve Cromity and Dennis Day didn't actually meet until six years later—and then only by chance at a New York vocal competition.

But last night at Two Steps Down in Fort Greene, the two musicians were once again reunited to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on Sunday.

“No more time for fear, I know where I’m going,” Cromity sang to a packed house in the upstairs room of the Dekalb Avenue restaurant.

Ten years ago, Cromity would have told a different story.

On Sept. 11, no one at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey knew Cromity was also an aspiring jazz singer when he went to work that fateful morning. The night before, Cromity, who was the manager of construction in the bi-state agency's engineering department, had been out late. He had spent the night jamming at a Long Island bar like he did every Monday, but still managed to make it on time from his Queens home to his early morning meeting.

On the 73rd floor of his boss’s office, Cromity stared out the window, noting the clear view of the Statue of Liberty and the blue waters of the Hudson River. Suddenly, a tremendous jolt sent the building into a violent swing that nearly knocked Cromity to his feet.

American Airlines Flight 11 had struck the north tower of the World Trade Center twenty floors above, clouding his perfect view with a shower of ash and smoke. The singer who found inspiration in jazz vocalists like Eddie Jefferson, filed down the stairs with the rest of the staff, encouraging firefighters as they ascended past him with their pounds of equipment and into a “no escape situation.”

Below, a few blocks from the building, Dennis Day, gazed up at the north tower’s smoking hole, clutching the hand of a woman whose son worked on the 104th floor. Moments ago, she was frantic, crying out to anyone who would help.

When the first plane struck, Day, who was also a part-time singer, was on his way from Upper Manhattan to his office at the New York Division of Housing and Community Renewal on Beaver Street. He was still holding the mother’s hand when the second plane hit. Day and the woman started to run.

It was then that Day began to question his life’s purpose.

“As I was escaping, something told me that if I get out of this, I should change my trajectory,” he said. “I instantly made the decision to focus on singing, music, composing and developing as a musician and artist.”

Six years later, after meeting each other at the vocal competition, the two discovered they had a shared experience via Facebook. “We didn’t know it, but we had more in common than just music,” Cromity said.

According to Cromity, 9/11 served as a motivation to continue developing his musical talents. He started singing on the side a year earlier, but made his talents known with the release of his debut album, “Stepping Out” in 2004. In 2005, Cromity retired.

For Day, 9/11 had more of a direct impact. He immediately began to write his own music and enrolled in a media arts master’s program at Long Island University before retiring from his state job in 2006. A year later, he released “All Things in Time,” a collection of interpreted songs by popular jazz greats. Just two months ago, the East Chicago native with a love for blues, doo-wop and rock, performed at his first piano recital.

More recently, Cromity and Day shot a scene from “Unfinished Business,” a film project Day started shortly after Sept. 11 to recount the events and experiences of that day. The scene showed Cromity walking from the Brooklyn side and Day from the Manhattan side of the Brooklyn Bridge. They stopped in the middle of the bridge to reflect on their 9/11 experiences and their music.

Sunday night, amidst the lively crowd’s energetic claps and cheers, Cromity and Day continued that conversation onstage, singing a line from “Don’t Get Scared,” a popular duet by noted vocalese artist, King Pleasure: “When you see danger facing you, little boy don’t get scared.”

“We talked about doing the song because all of us were frightened on that day,” Day said. “It seemed to speak to the whole idea of trying to talk and support one another through a crisis.”

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