By Matthew K. Roy
Their deaths were felt across a community, and their funerals were emotional and historic, each attracting hundreds, if not thousands, of people who showed up to respect and honor the sacrifice.
It happened first in Marblehead in 2005 after Staff Sgt. Christopher Piper, 43, died from wounds inflicted by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. It was sadly repeated in Swampscott for Army Spc. Jared Raymond in 2006 and Marine Capt. Jennifer Harris in 2007; in Beverly for Army Spc. Stephen Fortunato in 2008 and last December in Salem for Army Sgt. James Ayube II.
For the first time since Vietnam, cities and towns had to figure out the best way to mourn and remember one of their own lost to combat. The post 9/11 funerals were intense, patriotic spectacles, but they were fleeting. In their aftermath, communities have chosen to pay lasting tribute in a variety of ways.
In Swampscott, the intersection of Essex Street and Danvers Road is named after Raymond. Jennifer Harris Square is located where Essex Street meets Stetson Avenue. Raymond, 20, and Harris, 28, were killed in Iraq.
"It's a daily reminder every time people drive through (the squares)," said Jim Schultz, Swampscott's veterans agent, who played a major role in planning both funerals. "And I believe they are a source of comfort for the families."
Schultz is dedicated to ensuring that both squares are properly maintained, looking around whenever he drives through them to see that everything is "up to snuff," that the lawn is cut and the flags are in good condition.
There are also memorials to Raymond and Harris at Swampscott High School.
The Swampscott-based North Shore detachment of the Marine Corps League also honored Harris, renaming itself the Capt. Jennifer J. Harris Detachment. Harris, who was the first female pilot in the elite Purple Foxes Squadron, was killed when her helicopter was shot down just days before she was to return home from her third tour of duty in Iraq.
The War on Terror memorial in Marblehead lists Piper's name. At Marblehead High School, the football field is named after him. Piper, a Green Beret, was a former football standout for the Magicians, wearing No. 64. The field was dedicated to him on Thanksgiving Day in 2005.
A 1999 graduate of St. John's Prep, 1st Lt. Derek Hines of Newburyport starred on the ice and lacrosse field for the Eagles. The West Point graduate and Army Ranger was killed in 2005 in Afghanistan. His hometown named a bridge that spans the Merrimack River between Amesbury and Newburyport after him. Every winter, the St. John's hockey team dedicates a game to Hines and hangs his old game jersey on the bench.
In Salem, with the state's blessing, the city named the bypass road — a one-mile link from the Beverly-Salem bridge to downtown — Sgt. James Ayube Memorial Drive. The road is not far from the Bridge Street home where Ayube grew up. The 25-year-old Army medic from Salem was killed last December by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan.
Members of the Beverly VFW Post 545 renamed their organization the Fortunato VFW Post 545 in recognition of Stephen Fortunato and other members of his family, who have a long record of service to the military and the city.
The square next to the post office on Rantoul Street is also named for Fortunato, who was 25 when he was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.
"It's an honor for me to have that sign there as a memorial to him," said his mom, Betty Crawford. "I'm really appreciative of what the city has done."
On Sept. 11, Crawford will light a candle in memory of all those killed on that day, but also for the servicemen and servicewomen who have died since then.