“Try to remember the kind of September when life was slow and oh, so mellow … Try to remember when life was so tender that dreams were kept beside your pillow … Try to remember ... and if you remember, then follow….”
It was the song from the enigmatic off-Broadway show, The Fantasticks, about life, love and tough lessons learned, that was played in soft fluted tone as 9/11 victims’ names were announced, candles were lit in their honor, and a bell sounded as the loved ones of each of Middletown’s 37 lost to the terrorist attacks took their reflective walks, one by one, through the Middletown Township World Trade Center Memorial Gardens last night at the township’s “Middletown Remembers 9/11” ceremony.
The remembrance marked a decade since the day that a chagrined Middletown, NJ became known as the poster child of tragedy and loss.
On Sept. 11, 2001, 37 people who called the sprawling, sleepy suburb their home left for work in New York City and never returned. It was a documented loss of more magnitude for Middletown than any other singular suburb in the United States.
Ironically unencumbered by the solemn occasion, the train that took so many to work that day routinely whisked through the township last night, whistle softly blaring through the still air several times, signaling an unwitting, searing reminder of all the cars left in the commuter parking lot that day 10 years ago.
With an estimated 2,700 people in attendance — including township mayors past and present, state dignitaries, fire and police officials, girl and boy scouts, police K-9s, loved ones and people paying homage — the hugs, smiles and tears shared served as a snapshot of a community torn apart by a terrorist act weaving its way back together again … connected.
Joan Smith, who was mayor when 9/11’s hurt hit Middletown, stood quietly in the back of the crowd, smiling over the courage of her community, remembering and holding back tears when she took a moment to talk about wondering “how the loved ones of victims are feeling after 10 years and if they’ll smile through their pain today, knowing that their memories live on and inspire us in spirit.”
Her hope: that the solidarity that shone through a bleak, dark time in Middletown’s worst waking hour will be forever remembered, make people smile and continue to stand together … remembering the good in one another … never forgetting.
“Try to remember ... and if you remember, then follow … follow, follow, follow, follow …” so the song goes, as the final note is gently struck.