Family visits 'beautiful, peaceful place'

Richard and Dolores Caproni's son, Richard, was killed

Richard and Dolores Caproni's son, Richard, was killed in the north tower on Sept. 11, 2001. (Sept. 11, 2011) Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

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That's where Richard and Dolores Caproni can read their son's name etched elegantly in bronze.

No longer do they have to walk down a muddied ramp and throw a flower and a note into a shallow hole meant to represent the spot where their eldest child, Richard, was killed in the north tower on Sept. 11, 2001.

Now they can find his name next to a good friend's -- Michael Hannan -- at the spot labeled N-10, the tenth section of a memorial for those who perished a decade ago in the Twin Towers that once proudly dominated the skyline of lower Manhattan.

To the Capronis, the memorial is an ode to their son, a high school football player and avid movie buff who would entertain friends by singing both Archie and Edith Bunker's parts in the opening to the "All in the Family" television show.

"It was beautiful," Richard Caproni said of the memorial. "I think the creators, the architects, did a magnificent job in reflecting the depth of what transpired on 9/11, along with a sense of renewal. With the waterfalls and the trees, it was so simple, but yet, like the Vietnam Memorial [in Washington], it had a profound impact. It gave you chills."

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Richard Caproni, 34, worked on the 98th floor in the finance department for Marsh & McLennan, an insurance firm. Raised in North Babylon, he had just bought his first home, in Lynbrook. His younger sister, Lisa, helped him unpack and get comfortable.

That sunny morning after the buildings collapsed, his mother and father hoped that maybe their son was late to work, or rerouted on the subway, or -- at worst -- that he was triaged somewhere and couldn't call home.

Lisa and her two brothers, Michael and Christopher, posted his photos across lower Manhattan and Lisa gave out her phone number, asking anyone to please call with information.

Small parts of the story of that morning emerged. A colleague of her brother's from Boston phoned and said she was on the line with Richard minutes before the first plane struck at 8:46 a.m.

Unlike many families whose loved ones perished but whose remains were never found, Richard's were eventually uncovered at the site. His family held a burial ceremony three years after his death.

For each of the past nine years, the Caproni parents, both 69, have visited Ground Zero to honor their son's memory. But this tenth time was profoundly different, they said. It was almost joyous.

Richard and Delores Caproni, who live in Ocean Pines, Md., said they were moved by what they called the memorial's simple elegance.

Delores Caproni, who has struggled over the years to accept the reality of her son's death, found strength in the tribute. And instead of leaving something behind, this time she took a memento: an imprint of her son's name on a piece of stark white paper. The family also made a paper impression of Hannan's name.

"I found this morning uplifting," she said. "The minute I walked in there, I thought, 'This is a really beautiful, peaceful place.' It made you feel like there was a rebirth."

The sound of the site, of the water dropping 30 feet into the pool, gave Richard's parents a sense of peace even as they know nothing can bring him back.

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"No matter what happens, there will never be closure with something like this," Richard Caproni said. "Things get less painful, but somebody is always missing. A piece of your heart is gone."

Richard's spirit is not gone, his father said. It's in the scholarship money donated in his name; in the educations that will help generations of students going forward; in the hope that one day the hatred and distrust that can make one man kill another will be banished. That is what Richard's parents' hope for the future.

"Nothing is ever going to make Rich come back," he said. "But I want him to be remembered in a positive way. The body is gone, but the spirit lives on and I think the memorial emphasizes that. It's really profound. I'm glad we came. It was magnificent."