Vocal legend Messmer also glad to be a living legend
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As with most anniversary celebrations, Wayne Messmer will quietly spend part of Saturday with his family, appreciating that such a get-together is still possible.
In a moment of reflection, Messmer will take a deep breath and be thankful that he’s still here. And then, at some point, as has become tradition on April 9 for much of the last 22 years, Messmer will take time out to sing.
After spending the day with his wife, Kathleen, his children and four grandchildren, Messmer will perform a miracle of sorts — he’ll sing.
Before one note escapes, though, Messmer will flash back to another April 9, this one in 1994, when he was shot in the throat during an attempted robbery just hours after he had performed as the Blackhawks’ anthem singer.
And just like that, each time the day rolls around, Messmer celebrates life.
“I’ll be singing, and the song will just be ringing out, and you hear a phrase end and you hear your voice and think, ‘This shouldn’t be happening,’ ” Messmer said. “But I’m awfully glad it is.”
Messmer, now the senior executive vice president of the Wolves, will participate in the club’s annual Faith and Fellowship Night on Saturday. He’ll speak at 5 p.m. before the Wolves’ home game against the Grand Rapids Griffins, using his personal faith-based story to underscore the night’s keep-the-faith theme.
The event also will include a postgame on-ice concert by southern pop/rock band Consumed by Fire.
Since the night in which a bullet damaged his esophagus but missed his windpipe, Messmer has told the story countless times, choosing to forgive his assailant — who was 15 at the time — but never to forget. After enduring a 10-hour surgery, Messmer recalls standing in his living room months later, weeping openly, fearful that his singing and speaking career might be over because of the damage his throat suffered in the shooting.
But the fact that he’s able to speak — let alone sing — is reason to celebrate.
“I think people are encouraged by the fact that little by little when the voice did start to come back, I realized the significance of [the event],” Messmer said. “Not so much of what I had lost, but the fact that I had been given something at a high level, it was taken away and then it was restored at almost the same level.”
It’s that realization, Messmer said, that sometimes brings him close to an out-of-body experience when he sings.
Monday’s appearance at the Cubs’ home opener will be Messmer’s 32nd in a row at Wrigley Field during a career in which he has performed the national anthem for every Chicago sports franchise.
Each time carries significance for Messmer, who, this summer, will sing the anthem for the 5,000th time — 22 years after he wondered whether he’d ever sing again.
“I allow the emotion to give me the adrenaline,” Messmer said. “And then I allow the vocals to take me through it.”
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