9/11 remembrance stories
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Student Life

The Time I Read Names For The 9/11 Remembrance Ceremony

"No day shall erase you from the memory of time." -Virgil

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Photo by Axel Houmadi on Unsplash

On September 11, 2001, my grandma, Marianne Teresa Liquori Simone, was killed in the World Trade Center. I was only two years old when this happened and every year, I would mourn the death of my grandmother that I never really knew. I'm not saying this was wrong, but I never really understood who or what I was crying for.

A few years ago, I asked my mom if I could read the names at the 9/11 memorial that coming year. I wanted nothing more than to relate to my grandma, and I figured that if I announced her name in front of the entire nation, I HAD to feel more connected to her.

After my mother shed a few tears of mixed proud and sad emotions, I officially had volunteered to read the names of 27 innocent people. 27 people with families who would be listening for their loved one's name. 27 people with families who were counting on me.

Relatively soon after my mother volunteered me, we received a piece of paper of the names in the mail accompanied by a tape with the proper pronunciation. Frantically, I ran around the entire house trying to find someplace I could play a tape!

I could help but think, why not a CD?

Finally, I found an old karaoke player, which was basically the size of me, in my basement. I might've scuffed the walls on the way up, but I had good intentions!

When the day finally came, I was the most nervous I have ever been in my entire life. I knew that I had practiced really hard and my pronunciation had matched that on the tape. I just couldn't shake the feeling that I was going to mess up and make a family's day even harder than it already was.

My family and I entered the memorial through a separate family entrance as usual. What was unusual, was when my mother and father brought me to a giant white tent to check myself in. It was here that they had to leave me with people I had never met before. Even though I didn't know anyone, we all had one horrible thing in common and everyone was super kind to me.

Over and over I practiced the names in my head. Repeating each syllable, making sure I knew what to say. Although I was reading the names of the people with last names starting with "C", I was allowed to say something in memory of my grandmother at the end. I carefully scripted what I wanted to say about her in my head. Over and over. Over and over.

Finally, we all lined up in the order we would be saying the names. Up ahead, I saw an NYPD policeman in full uniform going down the line of people, looking for someone. He was one of the police officers in charge of standing behind the readers as security.

Finally, he got to me, "Are you reading the last names that start with 'C'?"

I told him I was and he informed me I would be reading the name of his brother who has been killed on September 11th. Now I was even more nervous!

He had a simple request for me: he wanted me to say "firefighter" before his brother's name, explaining, "You would be bringing so much honor to him and my family. I would really appreciate it."

Seeing a family member of one of the names I was reading made it all real, these were real people with real families and real lives. The nerves began to die down when I realized that I was also a family member, I understood. I also waited every year to hear my grandmother's name called. I also wanted someone to honor her; say her name, make her real.

Don't mess up, I thought when the time had finally come and I was on stage, on national television, honoring the fallen and their families. When I finished, I realized that this wasn't about me, it never was. I just made 27 families feel gratitude and love by remembering the people they cared about.

Ever since that year, I listen for two names during the ceremony: my grandmother's and the name of the brave firefighter who sacrificed his own life to help others. Every year I feel a sense of pride knowing that maybe I had finally brought closure and honor to his family because I know that hearing my grandma's name brings honor and love to mine.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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