TIME Essence Festival 2014

Watch Robin Roberts and Her Sister Tell Their Remarkable Story

The sisters also shared how their unwavering faith in God helped them through the most trying times

Good Morning America host Robin Roberts and her sister Sally-Ann appeared together at the 20th anniversary Essence Festival Friday to share the remarkable story about how Sally-Ann helped save her sister’s life.

In June 2012, the ABC anchor announced she was diagnosed with a blood disorder myelodysplastic syndrome, just five years after beating breast cancer. Two years later, thanks to the life-saving bone marrow donation her sister provided, Robin is healthy, happy, and most of all–grateful.

“You don’t take it for granted that someone is going to put their life on hold for you,” Robin said, holding back tears. But Sally-Ann said she never would have considered not providing the bone marrow that saved her younger sister’s life.

“I was born for this,” Sally Ann said. ” I believe that before I was in my mothers womb that God knew. I believe that God allowed me to be a perfect genetic match.”

Sally-Ann took a moving moment during their talk to thank God for her sister’s health. “Isn’t God good,” Sally-Ann said, before leading the crowd of festival-goers in a song of praise. “Look at Robin!”

The crowd stood when Sally-Ann, a broadcast journalist based in Louisiana, asked who in the audience prayed for Robin’s health and healing. They sang “Thank you, Lord,” when Sally-Ann began to sing a hymn of praise.

The sisters took part in a talk on sisterhood during the 20th Anniversary Essence Festival. More of the sisters’ story is shared in Robin Roberts’ new book, Everybody’s Got Something. The sisters used the word of God and their unwavering faith to speak to the power of believing–particularly in moments when faith is tested.

“Optimism is a muscle that gets stronger with use,” Robin said.

TIME cities

New Orleans Says City Is Safe for Essence Festival

Bourbon Street Shooting
Blood stains are seen on the sidewalk at the scene of a shooting that happened early Sunday morning, June 29, 2014, on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. Nine people were injured, one seriously, according to New Orleans Police. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) Gerald Herbert—AP

Heightened security after last weekend's Bourbon Street shooting

Deputy Mayor of New Orleans Judy Reese Morse says attendees of the 20th annual Essence Festival can rest assured that the city will keep them safe in the wake of last weekend’s shooting in the French Quarter.

“For this weekend, we’ve got what we need to make sure that the city is safe and that the city is secure,” Morse tells TIME. “[The shooting] was a very, very unfortunate incident. It’s something that we focus on every day, not only in the French Quarter, but in neighborhoods across the city.”

Morse said the city has increased security as a result of last weekend’s shooting, which left one dead and nine injured after two gunmen opened fire on the ever-packed Bourbon Street in the Crescent City’s famed French Quarter. The shooting was the third in the past three years on the famous street, the Associated Press reports, but it couldn’t have come at a more inopportune time—just days ahead of the 20th annual Essence Music Festival, where headliners like Prince and Lionel Richie are expected to bring thousands to the city.

As a precaution, 30 state troopers have reportedly been deployed in the city and Morse says the city is working to reassure festival-goers and New Orleans residents that they will be safe.

“We’ve got the security in place. We’ve informed all of our hotels,” Morse says. “This is a great place, it is safe and they’ll have a great experience this weekend.”

Though the focus of the Essence Music Festival is family fun and empowerment, there will be moments throughout the weekend that address the violence that plagues New Orleans. Mayor Mitch Landrieu has overseen a reduction in the number of murders from 193 in 2012 to 155 in 2013, thanks in large part to the city’s community outreach through the NOLA for Life initiative. But Morse says there’s still a lot of work to be done, and that the Essence Festival is the perfect time to address the issue.

“New Orleans is going to be 300-years-old in 2018, but we’ve got a situation right now that we’ve got to get our arms around and that is bringing down the rate of murder, particularly among African American men,” Morse says. “There’s no better time or place than Essence to take that issue head on.”

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