She pulled her jacket tight around her shoulders and shifted uncomfortably in the metal folding chair that sat in the morning shadow of the building lined street. The chill of the early day made her shiver. The stage and podium were set up only a few rows in front of her, giving her an unblocked view. She waited in nervous silence, her trembling hands clutched the tissue that she held to her face to catch her uncontrolled tears. The eerie feeling of both sorrow and dread was now a familiar, annual event.
The bell rang at 8:46, sending a jolting chill up her spine as she released a suppressed sob into her tissue. She closed her eyes, and again, let her mind torment her with what he may have experienced at that exact moment nine years ago. Maybe he felt the ground underneath him give way. Maybe he tried to call her. Maybe he prayed, cried, ran. She shuddered again, and felt the comforting hand of a stranger on her shoulder.
She listened as the names were read out loud with similar inflection and rhythm. First name, middle initial, last name. Some readers stumbled over the names, some choked up with emotion, some remained solemn and steady. Name after name, she waited, feeling alone but strangely connected to the crowd around her who watched and waited in alike demeanor.
A surge of apprehension, panic, and longing suddenly ran through her as she realized they were in the “R’s” now. She braced herself, tensed her muscles, held her breath. She wondered if they would pronounce it correctly. She wondered if they would skip over it, and then maybe it never happened. She wondered what she would feel, if it would be different than the past 8 times she sat here. She stopped her racing mind in time to hear. It was read. Later, she couldn’t say if it was a man or women who read the name, or how they said it, just like that day when everything was an indiscernible, surreal blur. Only that in those few seconds, she felt her body release the tension and pain that had been building up inside her for weeks as this event loomed. Hearing it read, loud and amplified for thousands, millions to hear made her proud, though her heart still broke daily for her loss.
She listened to the “S’s” through “Z’s,” feeling that a cloud had lifted slightly. She still sobbed, but now she sobbed for the strangers who waited for their own loved one's name to be read. She saw the man in front of her violently shake his shoulders as his head sank with sorrow. She reached up with her gloved hand and placed it gently on the man’s back for a moment.
The hours went by in somber languidness, and finally at the end, she walked to the reflecting pool. She pulled the single rose from her coat and kissed it. She looked down into the water as a tear fell from her face and made a small ripple in the mirror image. Her reflection appeared distorted and only partially visible because of the thousands of other roses that already filled the small fountain. And with a final breath and prayer, she let go of her rose.