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A Reader Shares his Thoughts on 9/11 Ceremony

Twenty-five. Each of us who volunteered to read names at the memorial ceremony on September 11th were given a list of 25 names to read. Upon the receipt of mine, I saw they were alphabetized. I had some of those whose last names began with "P." Twenty-five names. I did not know any of them but could not help thinking about them and tried to imagine who they were and what they looked like. Reading the names correctly became important. I practiced-a little.

I was number 75: the seventy-fifth reader of 25 names. I tried to do the math in my head but frightened myself by the zeros and the idea of the number of the living who had to read the number of the dead.

I stood in line, I listened in agony to how many of the living it took to read the names of those whose last name ended in M, then N, then O and the numbers and the math continued to taunt me. I read my names, dry-eyed, from Parkes to Peak and shook my head at the number of the living behind me who read more of those whose last names still began with "P."

Much later, almost at the end of the day, I finally read some of The New York Times. On page 45, suddenly, there were the faces of those whose names I had read. I recognized all my 25 names. My heart raced as I skimmed over the tiny photos, amazed and horrified as faces, real faces, became attached to those names I had practiced-a little. In fact, the names were arranged slightly differently and there were other, additional names between Parkes and Peak that I had not read. I claimed them.

I stared at these photographs. Their deaths and the circumstances of their deaths remain terrifying and still defy comprehension yet their pictures were smiling, all of them.

I put the paper away and wept.

My thanks to all at the College for helping to keep our memories working, our hearts strong and our spirits alive.

--Daniel Tamulonis

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