"I've got a song for those people hiding in the caves," Jay-Z laughed before launching into "99 Problems." A solemn 9/11 benefit this was not. But perhaps it's time to let ourselves celebrate, and at his Answer The Call benefit at Madison Square Garden last night, Jay-Z was all about celebration. He struck the perfect balance between giving respect for all those who gave their lives at Ground Zero, and honoring a city that couldn't be torn down.

The evening was peppered with generally unceremoniously introduced guests. This was, after all, about New York, and not about fitting every pop-star possible on one stage. But they sure did try. The crowd walked in to Biz Markie spinning records with a single spotlight, getting the crowd to belt out "Billie Jean" and slipping into "Just a Friend" as if he didn't know it would bring the house down. After his set, the countdown clock came up on the jumbotrons. Ten minutes to HOV. College kids and media moguls mingled with the FDNY. MSG looked like a microcosm of the city, with everyone pushed together and honored by the mere presence of being there. One minute to HOV. The lights went out. The crowd went wild. The FDNY took the stage and lead the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance. Jay-Z's guitarist followed it with a Hendrix-like National Anthem as the rapper swaggered out and burst into "Empire State of Mind," backed by a full band and a helicopter view of the New York skyline.

Other guests included John Mayer, Rihanna, Kanye West, Pharell, Sean "Diddy" Combs, Beyonce and Mary J. Blige. But just when we thought this was going to stay one of Jay-Z's messianic festivals, he called for a moment of silence. Everyone hung their heads and held up peace signs, and the faces of the fallen began to scroll up the skyline.

Eight years later, the country is still involved an unpopular war, progress is slow at Ground Zero, and now a global recession hangs over everything else. But Jay-Z kept reminding everyone last night, "We are still here." Those words may have lost some meaning in the past few years, but every once in a while we need a reminder of how true that actually is.