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John Lamb, Published July 08 2009

Small group of fans watch service at MSUM

Fans around the world flocked to television sets for the Michael Jackson memorial service Tuesday. In Fargo-Moorhead mass gatherings were harder to find.

A lunchtime tour of popular downtown Fargo eateries with TVs, such as Bertrosa’s, the OB Grill and the OB Sports Zone, revealed little interest.

But across the river at Minnesota State University of Moorhead, a small group of students gathered to watch the noontime service in the lower level of the school’s union.

“Michael Jackson was a great artist, a great human being and a great philanthropist,” said Jessica Gibson.

A senior, Gibson said it was “a heartbreaker and shocker to know one of the greatest African-American performers passed away. It was a great loss.”

Enkhdulam Tumeneayar, a senior from Mongolia, grew up watching Jackson’s music videos.

“It was like watching a movie,” she said.

She testified to the singer’s international stature and said his songs about peace and children were popular in her home.

“I didn’t want to miss it,” she said of the service.

Kayla Muennich, a grad student working in MSUM’s Student Affairs office, didn’t anticipate watching the event, but got sucked in from her office across the hall. While she didn’t grow up a fan, she said the service made her want to hear his songs again.

Jered Pigeon, who organized the viewing and supplied popcorn and orange drink, called the gathering of about 25 people a success.

“He was the greatest entertainer to live. How do you fill those shoes?” said Pigeon, president of Umoja, which means “unity” in Swahili, formerly the university’s Black Student Alliance. “He was the greatest. I’m not just saying it. You’re not just saying it. Everyone’s saying it.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533