|Thousands Welcome Pfc. DeMarsico Home|
|By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff|
02:20PM / Wednesday, August 29, 2012
|Thousands lined the center of North Adams to watch the motorcade carrying Pfc Michael R. DeMarsico II passed by.|
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Silence overwhelmed thousands of people in downtown North Adams on Wednesday afternoon when Army Pfc. Michael R. DeMarsico II returned home.
DeMarsico,20, was killed Thursday, Aug. 16, while serving in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. He returned to a hero's welcome from his hometown.
Route 2 was lined with crowds in small towns from Greenfield to Flynn & Dagnoli-Montagna Home for Funerals' West Chapels on West Main Street. At about 1 p.m., the 15-vehicle motorcade entered the city and slowly weaved through the streets.
Union Street west to Veterans Memorial Drive was a solid bank of red, white and blue. Multiple groups were handing out flags to onlookers and people held up signs expressing their support for the family, and their grief at the loss of a native son.
Near Center Street an array of veteran's organizations created a flag salute and ladder trucks from the Adams and North Adams fire departments extended over the street to fly a huge American flag.
"This is remarkable... this is a testament to who we are as a community," Mayor Richard Alcombright said of the thousands who attended. "The family will feel so much support and comfort from this outpouring."
Alcombright was gathered with city councilors, Rep. Gailanne Cariddi, D-North Adams, and state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield, across from St. Joseph's Court.
DeMarsico's arrival was the first of what will be an emotional weekend for residents, many of whom watched the motorcade pass with tear-filled eyes.
On Friday there will be calling hours from 2 until 7 and the funeral will be at 11 a.m. on Saturday. The funeral service will be at First Baptist Church and the route will go down Eagle Street to the Veterans Memorial before heading south to Southview Cemetery.
"No community wants to have to go through this but if they do, this is the way to do it," Downing said of the memorial. "It's a horrible thing to happen but this is a beautiful response."
The lined streets featured residents, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, police, veterans and families of many who returned from the same war themselves. The U.S. Postal Service lined up trucks on Route 2 and all along the route various service departments had their vehicles flashing lights in memoriam. In Florida, reportedly "the whole town" gathered to watch the somber procession pass.
The Berkshire County Here at Home Committee, which organizes events for returning soldiers, came out in numbers for Wednesday's homecoming. Member Kathy Mickle said she was not surprised with the turn out and said the tribute was "well deserved."
The hearse was escorted by the Berkshire County sheriff's department, a state police and North Adams police cruisers, two vehicles with immediate family members and motorcyclists including members of the Patriot Guard Riders, a group dedicated to ensuring deceased members of the armed forces are treated with respect, and American Legion Riders.
"You never know what it feels like until it hits home," Cariddi said, adding that she, too, was not surprised that so many people had come out to support the DeMarsico family. "North Adams always comes out and always supports their own."
DeMarsico is the city's first casualty of war since Army Sgt. Peter W. Foote III was killed in Vietnam in 1968.