Stepping to microphones in pairs, carrying flowers and photos of the dead or wearing T-shirts bearing their likenesses, many added personal messages, speaking intimately to their loved ones, saying, in effect, we love you, we miss you, and renewing pledges of fidelity, telling of the births of grandchildren or other family events.
Voices quavered and faltered, rang with force and hope.
And when it was over, the silence was profound. You could hear only the wind sighing off the Hudson.
There were no religious services or formal prayers, not even a representative clerical contingent. On an occasion deemed too solemn for speeches, dignitaries led by President Obama and former President George W. Bush turned to poems and passages of literature to address the nation and the families whose sacrifices, they acknowledged, could hardly be assuaged with words.