Names of the Dead: An Elegy for the Victims of September 11

Names of the Dead: An Elegy for the Victims of September 11

by Diane Schoemperlen


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Names of the Dead: An Elegy for the Victims of September 11 by Diane Schoemperlen

We've seen the pictures and heard their names. But the staggering number of September 11, 2001 terror attack victims overwhelms the individual stories of the men and women who left home that morning never to return. And with this deeply moving tribute, Diane Schoemperlen both bestows individuality to each and connects us all. As she says in her preface, "There is an immediate recognition in the power of naming."
A tapestry of every name and a narrative of events crafted with a novelist's keen observational eye, the story of this day of loss becomes a celebration of life. Accompanying the names of the victims is an imaginative framework of fragments based on facts-relationships, hobbies, hopes for the future, the textures and basic endeavors of human life. Written in spellbinding prose, Names of the Dead is at once a work of literary art and a haunting elegy that captures the magnitude of an unforgettable event.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780670033256
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/19/2004
Pages: 240
Product dimensions: 7.76(w) x 9.56(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Diane Schoemperlen is an award-winning author of numerous novels, including Our Lady of the Lost and Found, and the author of five short story collections.

Read an Excerpt

This book is a work of both extensive research and the imagination. It is at once a distillation and an elaboration of the facts.
I began with the names. At that time, it was only two months since the tragedy and the lists of victims were incomplete and incorrect. I worked solely from the Internet, using the lists posted by the Associated Press, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and CNN. All the lists were different. All the lists changed every day: names added, names deleted, spellings changed and then changed back again. Nobody knew yet how many people had died.
For four months I worked only on the names.
Listing the names of the dead on memorials to tragedies involving large-scale loss has become an established practice all over the world. The names of the dead appear on monuments commemorating lives lost in both World Wars and in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, in Israel's memorial to the Holocaust, Yad Vashem, and on Maya Lin's Vietnam Memorial wall in Washington, D.C. In all such lists there is an immediate recognition of the power of naming, this deceptively simple way in which we bestow identity and individuality upon others and ourselves. Reading a long list of the names of the dead becomes almost overwhelming as it goes on and on, so simply and brutally conveying the magnitude of all that was lost. Faced with such large losses of life, we find that the numbers of the dead tend to remain as abstractions in the mind but the names...the names are real. They take your breath away with their power. They can only be read with your heart in your mouth.
Finally, arranged in paragraphs, the names ofthe September 11 victims totaled more than eighty pages in manuscript.
While working on the names, I was also reading profiles and obituaries of the victims, personal accounts by survivors, as well as many factual and photographic books about the tragedy. I began to figure out what I wanted to put into all those blank spaces between the paragraphs of names.
I immersed myself in elegaic poetry in an attempt to discover the right tone, the delicate balance between lyricism and cold hard fact, between joy and despair. I read the work of many individual poets, and I studied an anthology called Inventions of Farewell: A Book of Elegies, edited by Sandra M. Gilbert and published by W. W. Norton and Company. It contains more than two hundred poems by writers from Shakespeare, Donne, Wordsworth, Dickinson, and Yeats to Walt Whitman, Dylan Thomas, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Tennyson to Sharon Olds, Alice Walker, Rita Dove, Philip Larkin, and Sylvia Plath. I read Rilke's Duino Elegies several times. From each of the poems I read, I learned something more about how to write about death, how to speak beautifully about the unspeakable. I carried Elie Wiesel's memoir of the Holocaust, Night, in my purse for weeks.
Of utmost importance for inspiration, reassurance, structure, and style in this book was a collection of essays by Susan Griffin called A Chorus of Stones: The Private Life of War, published by Doubleday in 1992. The last essay in the book, "Notes Toward a Sketch for a Work in Progress," is about the paintings and writings of Charlotte Salomon, which were published in a book called Life? Or Theatre?: A Play with Music. The nearly eight hundred paintings in this book tell the story of Salomon's short life. She was born into a wealthy Jewish family in Berlin in 1917. In 1943, pregnant, she was sent to her death at Auschwitz. Griffin uses a fragmentary collagelike structure to write about Salomon, including her thoughts on writing about Salomon, on her own life, and on the Gulf War, which begins while she is writing the essay. Many passages in this hundred-page essay described exactly what I was trying to do in Names of the Dead as well as the problems I was encountering.
Griffin writes: "There are so many stories I heard in the course of the writing that I would like to include in the book. But one cannot tell everything. The urgency of testimony, of bearing witness. A crowd pressing, like passengers, pushing to board a train already filled to capacity....Even in the retelling of one story, so many details have had to be left out. And others are given a new prominence. That is, I give them a prominence. And then the book itself, moving with its own life, makes certain choices which I must obey."
I knew from the beginning that I didn't want to write descriptions of the burning towers or details of the horrors that went on inside the buildings or the hijacked planes. Nor did I want to write about the politics of the event or my own reaction to the tragedy. In the face of it, my personal reaction was certainly no more important than anyone else's. I wanted to write a book in which I did not appear. I knew that somehow all the victims had to be included in the book. To me, each person was of equal importance. They were all so different and yet there were so many similarities, too. How could I possibly give each of them a voice? I knew that I wanted to write primarily about the lives of the victims. We all knew about their deaths. I wanted to capture moments of their lives up to that moment.
Many of the fragments I have included are obviously factual in nature: for instance, the chronology of the day's events, the technical information on the Boeing 767 and 757, the structural information on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the business information on Windows of the World and Cantor Fitzgerald, and the lists of collapsed and damaged buildings. Each detail included immediately after a victim's name is also completely factual, including relationships between victims, birthdays, anniversaries, upcoming weddings and births, ages of surviving children, and so on.
The fragments that appear in series are also solely products of my research, drawing together and distilling the details of many individuals' lives as described in their profiles and obituaries. These include the following series: "Tuesday morning," "Distinguishing features" (including tattoos), "Last seen wearing" (both clothing and jewelry), "The future," "The past," "The things they carried," "The things they loved," "The things they hated," "Former lives," "Military honors," "Occupations," "Favorite books" (also favorite foods, movies, and television shows), "Police," "Secrets," and "What remains."
In reading about the victims, I found that many things were mentioned over and over again: taking the children to the park, buying a new house, going grocery shopping, renovating, and so on. I decided I had to find a way to write about these common activities without mentioning any one person by name, thereby telling the story of an individual while at the same time using that small story to represent the stories of many others. Therefore, each narrative fragment appearing in a separate paragraph does tell a specific story, but it is not intended to refer directly to the name that immediately precedes it.
Beginning with the facts found in the profiles of the victims, I then elaborated from that to create short narrative scenes of events that had happened in the lives of the victims. Virtually all of the fragments of a narrative nature began with something I discovered in my research. For instance, in one profile it was noted that the individual was especially fond of the book A Short Guide to a Happy Life, by Anna Quindlen, and had given copies of it to all his friends. I felt free to imagine this in further detail and to include a passage from that book that he might have liked the most. The series called "On the desk" and "In the dream" were also written in this way. Many profiles mentioned what the individuals had kept on their desks. I then imagined these family pictures, trophies, cards, and other mementos in detail. The dreams included here were all also described in the profiles.
Only a very few fragments are wholly the product of my imagination. These include the short descriptions of ordinary objects and events, such as a bowl of fruit on the kitchen table, candles and Legos on the coffee table, seeing a dead rat on the sidewalk, hearing the sounds of trains and rain and thunder in the night. Also imagined are the things the victims might have been planning to do on that Tuesday afternoon, such as clean out their desks, ask for a raise, or answer all their e-mails. The fragments describing what they did that Monday evening are factual, except for the ones that have them making love: these are my invention.

I did not know anyone who died on September 11. But for weeks at a time I felt closer to these three thousand dead people that I had never met than I did to anyone in my own life. As François Mauriac wrote in his foreword to Night: "It is not always the events we have been directly involved in that affect us the most."
Gordon McCannel Aamoth Jr. Edelmiro (Ed) Abad. Maria Rose Abad. Tuesday, third day of the week, named for Tiu, the Germanic god of war and the sky.
Andrew Anthony Abate. Vincent P. Abate. Brothers. Best friends of Michael A. Uliano, also killed.
Laurence Christopher Abel. Alona Abraham. William F. Abrahamson. Richard Anthony Aceto. Heinrich Bernhard Ackermann. September. A month of returning and beginning: back to work, back to school, back to the regular routine; a new season, a new job, a new project; a month that for many marks the beginning of a new year more than New Year's itself. A month of sharpened pencils, new shoes, the look of the leaves just before they start to turn. A month of optimism and renewed energy after the humid languor of summer. A change in the air, a change in the light, a change in the color of the sky. It was a beautiful morning. It was the eleventh day of the ninth month: 911.
Paul Andrew Acquaviva. Expectant father. His second child, a boy, was born on December 20, 2001.
Christian Adams. Donald LaRoy Adams. Patrick Adams. Shannon Lewis Adams. Stephen George Adams. Begin with a prayer.
A prayer for courage, comfort, mercy, strength.
Ignatius Udo Adanga. Christy A. Addamo. Terence E. Adderley Jr. Sophia Buruwad Addo. Lee Allan Adler. Begin with a promise.
A promise to bear witness, to honor, never to forget.
Daniel Thomas Afflitto Jr. Expectant father. On September 11, his first child, a boy, was six months old. On September 12, his wife found out she was pregnant with their second child. The baby, a boy, was born on May 20, 2002.
Emmanuel Akwasi Afuakwah. Alok Agarwal. Mukul Kumar Agarwala. Joseph Agnello, firefighter, Ladder Company 118; posthumously promoted to lieutenant. David Scott Agnes. João Alberto DaFonseca Aguiar Jr. At 7:59 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time, American Airlines Flight 11, a Boeing 767, leaves Logan Airport in Boston, Massachusetts, bound for Los Angeles, California, with eighty-one passengers and eleven crew members aboard.
Lieutenant Brian G. Ahearn, firefighter, Engine Company 230. Jeremiah Joseph Ahern. Joanne Marie Ahladiotis. Shabbir Ahmed. Terrance André Aiken. Godwin Ajala. Father. Mother. Sister. Brother. Son. Daughter. Grandmother. Grandfather. Grandson. Granddaughter. Aunt. Uncle. Niece. Nephew. Cousin.
Gertrude M. (Trudi) Alagero. September 7 was her thirty-seventh birthday.
Andrew Alameno. Husband. Wife. Boyfriend. Girlfriend. Best friend. Fiancé. Fiancée. Lover. Partner. Companion. Roommate. Brother-in-law. Sister-in-law. Neighbor. Unborn child.
Margaret Ann (Peggy) Jezycki Alario. September 18 was her forty-second birthday.
Gary M. Albero. Jon Leslie Albert. Peter Craig Alderman. Jacquelyn Delaine Aldridge-Frederick. Grace Yu Alegre-Cua. David Dewey Alger. Ernest Alikakos. Edward L. Allegretto. Christian. Jew. Muslim. Hindu. Buddhist. Atheist. Undecided.
Eric Allen, firefighter, Squad 18.
Joseph Ryan Allen. Richard Dennis Allen, firefighter, Ladder 15.
September 10. A cloud of ambient anxiety had shadowed her for days. She kept trying to push it away but always it returned: an oppressive weight growing by increments every hour, a burden of disquiet percolating all through her body. No matter what she was doing-filing papers at work, riding the subway home, helping her son with his homework, braiding her daughter's hair-she felt heavy and uneasy. On Monday night she couldn't sleep. Her heart was racing. She found it hard to breathe and there was a pain in her chest. She got out of bed and turned on all the lights. Her children sighed in their sleep. She sat in the kitchen and looked out at the night. The pain went away but the anxiety did not. She knew something terrible was going to happen but she didn't know what or when or to whom. On Tuesday morning she got up and went to work.
Richard Lanard Allen. Best friend of Sean Booker, also killed.
Christopher Edward Allingham. Anna S. Williams Allison. Janet M. Bohlander Alonso. Anthony Joshua Alvarado. Antonio Javier Alvarez. Victoria (Sandra) Alvarez-Brito. Telmo E. Alvear.
September 10. In bed that night the husband heaved a deep sigh of contentment and said, All our dreams are finally coming true. The wife agreed. They had never been happier. On Monday night they fell asleep quickly and slept soundly. On Tuesday morning they got up and went to work.
César Amoranto Alviar. He had been married three times to the same woman: first in a civil ceremony, then in a church ceremony, and finally, three years ago, they had renewed their wedding vows after twenty-five years of marriage.
Tariq Amanullah. Angelo Amaranto. Captain James M. Amato, firefighter, Squad 1; posthumously promoted to battalion chief. Joseph Amatuccio.
Tuesday morning. She was scheduled to fly home several days earlier but decided to stay longer; her husband took the original flight as planned. She was supposed to fly on Monday but her flight was delayed by a thunderstorm so she decided to fly on Tuesday morning instead. They were scheduled to take a later flight on Tuesday, but they got to the airport early and changed their tickets. She had changed her trip home four times before ending up on a Tuesday-morning flight.
Paul Wesley Ambrose. He became engaged at the beginning of September.
Christopher Charles Amoroso, police officer, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Specialist Craig S. Amundson. Kazuhiro Anai. Calixto (Charlie) Anaya Jr., firefighter, Engine 4.
Tuesday morning. He was originally scheduled to fly on Monday but was called for one day of jury duty and changed his trip to Tuesday instead. She was supposed to be on a later flight but changed to an earlier one that was less crowded. He was originally scheduled to fly on Monday but his flight was canceled due to a fire a Newark Airport, so he decided to fly on Tuesday morning instead. She was supposed to be on a different flight but changed to one that was nonstop. He was supposed to fly on Monday, but a reservation error had him traveling on Tuesday instead.
Joseph Peter Anchundia. Best friend and roommate of
Judson J. Cavalier, also killed.
Kermit Charles Anderson. Yvette Constance Anderson. John (Jack) Andreacchio. Michael Rourke Andrews. Jean Ann Andrucki. Siew-Nya Ang.
Driving to the airport. Although it was early, the traffic was already starting to build, the sun glinting off the cars all around them. The husband put on his sunglasses and sighed. It was just another business trip: he would be home on Thursday night. Usually he enjoyed these little jaunts, but this time he was tired. He really didn't want to go; maybe he was coming down with something, maybe he just needed a break. Maybe next week he would take a couple of days off. His wife, who was driving, said that sounded like a good idea. They pulled up in front of the terminal. They kissed and his wife said, Will you call me when you get there? He said, Of course I will. Don't I always? He reminded her of their daughter's dentist appointment the next morning. They kissed again, and he got his small suitcase out of the trunk and walked into the terminal.
Joseph J. Angelini Sr., firefighter, Rescue Company 1. Joseph J. Angelini Jr., firefighter, Ladder 4. Father and son. Joseph Sr. was the most veteran firefighter in New York City, with forty years on the job.
David Lawrence Angell. Lynn Edwards Angell. Husband and wife.
Laura Angilletta. Doreen J. Angrisani.
Lorraine Del Carmen Antigua. September 27 was her thirty-third birthday.
Seima Aoyama.
Accountant. Actor. Administrator. Advertising manager. Air-conditioning technician. Analyst. Antenna engineer. Antiques dealer. Arborist. Architect. Assistant chef. Assistant wine master. Astronautical engineer. Attorney. Audiovisual technician. Auditor. Aviation warfare systems operator.
Peter Paul Apollo. September 23 was his twenty-seventh birthday. He was to be married on November 16, 2001.
Faustino Apostol Jr., firefighter, Battalion 2. Frank Thomas Aquilino. Patrick Michael Aranyos.
At 8:14 a.m. United Airlines Flight 175, a Boeing 767, leaves Logan Airport in Boston, Massachusetts, bound for Los Angeles, California, with fifty-six passengers and nine crew members aboard.
David Gregory Arce, firefighter, Engine 33. Lifelong best friend of Michael Boyle, firefighter, Engine 33, also killed. Their bodies were found together and subsequently buried side by side.
Michael George Arczynski. Expectant father. His seventh child, a girl, was born on February 16, 2002.
Louis Arena, firefighter, Ladder 5. Barbara Jean (Bobbi) Arestegui, flight attendant, American Airlines Flight 11.
Adam P. Arias. September 5 was his third wedding anniversary. During their marriage, his wife had undergone fifteen lymphoma-related surgeries. In October 2001 she had her sixteenth operation.
Michael Joseph Armstrong. He was to be married on October 6, 2001.
Jack Charles Aron. Joshua Todd Aron. Richard Avery Aronow. Myra Joy Aronson. Yaphet Jesse Aryee. Carl Francis Asaro, firefighter, Battalion 9.
Tuesday morning. September 11 was his first day of work at a new job. September 11 was her first day back at work after a week's vacation. September 11 was the only day that week that he was scheduled to be in the office. September 11 was his second day of work at a new job. September 11 was his last day of work before a two-week vacation. September 11 was his last day of work before beginning a new job elsewhere. September 11 was his last day of work before his wedding on the weekend; his fiancée worked for the same company but she stayed home on Tuesday to complete the wedding preparations.
Michael A. Asciak. Michael Edward Asher. Janice Marie Ashley. Thomas J. Ashton. Manuel O. Asitimbay. Lieutenant Gregg Arthur Atlas, firefighter, Engine 10.
Distinguishing features. Small chicken-pox scar above his left eyebrow. Hairline scar below her stomach. Burn scars on his right foot. Left arm and leg two inches shorter than the right, small mole above his upper lip. Two-inch raised red appendectomy scar. Gallbladder scar on his stomach, scar on his left palm near the thumb. Dark circles under her eyes. Deep stretch marks under his arms. Quadriplegic. Scars from bunion operations on both feet. Green birthmark on his lower back. Freckles. Permanent braces on her inside bottom teeth. Small hole in cartilage at top of his right ear. Strawberry-shaped birthmark above her belly button. Tip of his left middle finger missing. Horizontal cesarean scar on bikini line, one-inch scar on the sole of her foot (not sure which foot).
Gerald T. Atwood, firefighter, Ladder 21. Expectant father. His third child, a boy, was born on March 2, 2002.
James Audiffred. Louis Frank Aversano Jr. Ezra Aviles.
Last seen wearing. Gray pinstripe suit, white shirt, dark tie. Black pinstripe Gucci suit with tapered pants, white cotton blouse with spread collar. Green-striped button-down shirt, gray slacks, black shoes. Black jacket and skirt, white sneakers. Powder-blue pantsuit. Black cashmere sweater and black slacks. Long-sleeved Ralph Lauren shirt, navy trousers, black belt and shoes. Sky-blue housekeeping uniform. Faded black jeans, red bowling shoes, I ™ NY T-shirt. Khaki pants, purple shirt, white tennis shoes. Khaki pants, rust-colored polo shirt. Khaki pants, yellow sweater, black shoes. Khaki pants, sage-green Izod shirt, Cole Haan shoes. Khaki pants, beige embroidered shirt, nylon knee-highs, brown moccasins. Khaki pants, green-striped long-sleeved Brooks Brothers shirt, boxer shorts, dark brown Timberland shoes with laces.
Samuel (Sandy) Ayala. He always thought he would die young. He believed he would not live past the age of thirty-six. In August 2001 he celebrated his thirty-sixth birthday.

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