Family members stepped up to podiums, two by two, to read the names of the dead, and send personal messages to loved ones lost.
Their voices faltered with emotion, describing children all grown up and grandchildren never met. Again and again, the strangers standing side-by-side at a podium left the stage with arms wrapped around one another's shoulders.
They spoke in many languages, but their meaning was clear: We miss you. We love you. We will remember you.
Dorotea Angilletta spoke to her daughter, of Staten Island, in Italian: "Laura, I love you so much. You will always be in my heart."
A woman said in Spanish: "Always, we will remember you."
A man spoke in Hebrew, then translated: "May God wipe all the tears from all our faces."
Madeline Hoffman told her father Stephen that everyone tells her she looks just like him, and acts like him, too.
Peter Negron, who gave a special reading, spoke about the father he lost at age 11.
Pete Negron, 34, of Bergenfield, N.J., worked for the Port Authority on the 88th floor of the North Tower, as an environmental project manager.
"I wish my dad had been there to teach me how to drive, ask a girl out on a date . . . and a hundred other things," said Peter Negron, now 21. "I want to be a forensic scientist. I hope that I can make my father proud."
First lady Michelle Obama, watching from the side of the stage, applauded, then let out a visible sigh.