Day of remembrance

Edgartown Lighthouse Children's Memorial. Photos by Susan Safford
People gathered for the ceremony at the Edgartown Lighthouse Children's Memorial last Saturday. Photos by Susan Safford

By Susan Safford - September 21, 2006

"For the families of these children, whose interrupted lives are here remembered, let this lighthouse be a beacon through the darkness of grief reminding and assuring with its brightness a safe harbor has been reached."

Mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, friends and family gathered at the Edgartown lighthouse for the annual Ceremony of Remembrance. Some brought flowers, others special shells or feathers, to place alongside the names, etched in cobblestones at the base of the lighthouse, of loved ones whose young lives were lost. The site has served as a children's memorial since 2001.

Annabelle Goldberg Doyle
Annabelle Goldberg Doyle has flowers for her brother.

This September day was especially peaceful. Under clear blue skies and a warm, gentle breeze, Matthew Stackpole, executive director of the Martha's Vineyard Museum, welcomed the gathering. He spoke of the practical and symbolic importance of lighthouses, how they serve as beacons, not only to warn ships at sea, but also to welcome them, and guide them safely in and out of the harbor.

In the early 1800s, the Edgartown lighthouse was on an island. Eventually a wooden bridge was built to make it easier for the lighthouse keeper get to and from shore. The bridge soon became known as the "bridge of sighs" because it was the last place people could stand to wave good-bye to ships departing on voyages that often lasted years.

Mr. Stackpole led the gathering in the reading a prayer written for last year's ceremony by the Rev. Dr. John Schule, then introduced Kate Murray who sang "How Can I Keep From Singing" and "A Living Prayer." There was hardly a dry eye as the ceremony came to a close, and Dick Sherman, whose son's name is among those etched below, did a fly-over in his vintage plane "Warbird."

There was no hurry to leave. A tent was set up with refreshments, lemonade and cookies, provided by the Harbor View Hotel, and people lingered at the base of the lighthouse on this peaceful day of remembrance.