This year, the pols were long-winded. Joe Lieberman was definitely on the stump. The Director of the Old State House museum is an unreformed academic, who went on, and on, and on, as academics are wont to do. The Fire Chief (Charles Teale Sr.) had a good message, but like many of the speakers it was hobbled by poor speech-writing. The Police Chief (Darryl Roberts) was also not eloquent, but he had two things going strongly for him. He was sincere, and he was brief.
At last, after all of the talking, came the names. The start with the smallest group first, and work their way up. An officer from Ætna Ambulance read the twenty or so names of EMTs and Paramedics who died at the twin towers. Next came an officer from HPD who read the names of the fallen police, FBI, and court officers. Then came the firemen. A succession of firefighters and officers ascended the Old State House steps to read their part of the three hundred and forty-three names. The first was a young blond female firefighter who could barely see over the lectern. The last was a senior black captain. And in-between was a cross-section of age, and race, and rank from the department.
The names are what bring tears to my eyes. The names are what give a sense of scale to the breadth and depth of the loss. There are two names early in the list -- Joseph Angelini, Sr. and Joseph Angelini, Jr. -- plainly father and son, that crystallize all of the unfocused feelings of loss and dislocation that fill me on the morning of each 9/11. From that moment forward, through the rest of the names, I know why I feel loss, why I feel torn away from that which came before. It is both calming and terrible. The fact that this recitation, so heavy itself, is a mere 1/10 of the casualties ... fills me with a feeling that I cannot describe.
I am not exactly happy that I went. But, I think that I found some solace and clarity in the communal grief. And that, I suppose, is what memorial services are for.