Written by Elaine Van Develde
It’s been a whirlwind of a decade since 9/11 for retired Middletown Township Police Detective Lt. Joseph Capriotti — a time capsule that will forever be buried in his mind as an integral part of who he is and has become in light of the tragedy that hit Middletown, NJ harder than any suburb in the United States.
They called him the "keeper of the list." Known for his kind, gentle demeanor, Capriotti was the one in the Middletown Township Police Department charged with the difficult task of keeping a list of what turned out to be 37 township residents killed on Sept. 11, 2001 in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City.
What Capriotti's job meant was that he had to keep track of who from the township was lost to the attacks and notify their families when the deceased, or tragic as it was, any part of them was found. At the time, Capriotti, a police officer and gentleman known for his soothing manner on the job, shied away from the notion that for taking on such a difficult task, he should be recognized. Yet, time and time again, those whose lives he touched refused to let his consistently good nature go unnoticed.
He would merely shake his head and quietly say, "I'm just doing my job. I just wish there was more I could do to help these victims' families." He still says the same thing as he looks back, thinking of each person as a member of the Middletown suburban family. Then Police Chief John Pollinger repeatedly praised Capriotti for his work as the "keeper of the list."
Pollinger had said he could see that the magnitude of working through the tragedy so closely with the victims' families had started wearing on Capriotti, but he also knew of Capriotti's eagerness to assist above and beyond; and, despite Capriotti's insistence that he was no one special and deserved no accolades for just doing his job, Pollinger always said he did the work like no other could.
He was the one who knocked on the doors with the bad news; and, frequently, he had to return to the same home with news of more found and some who were never recovered from Ground Zero. He often spoke of the intense sorrow he felt every time he had to pay a visit to one father who had lost his daughter, for instance, and a widow with a new born baby, with whom he has maintained contact and volunteers with.
He recalled how tragic it was to watch a man sit in front of the television and blankly stare and how sad it was to know that a newborn baby was crying for a dad who would never come home.
Middletown will hold a silent memorial on Sept. 11, 2013.