NORTH ADAMS -- A city in mourning turned out in remembrance of U.S. Army Pfc. Michael DeMarsico II Friday, along with city, state and federal officials, members of the military and scores of Patriot Guard Riders.
At the wake, a line of people spanning the length of Flynn & Dagnoli Funeral Home, West Chapels, gathered before calling hours began at 2 p.m., continuously growing down the sidewalk of West Main Street until doors opened.
Among those waiting to pay their respects were friends, family and the men and women who serve in the military as De Marsico did, as well as those who serve the city and the commonwealth, elected or otherwise.
DeMarsico, 20, died in Panjwai, Afghanistan from wounds sustained from an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
Leaving the funeral home dressed in military uniform, Justin Racette, a friend who graduated from Drury High School in 2010 with DeMarsico, called the events of past two weeks "mind-blowing."
"You never want to have to come back for something like this," Racette said. "But the respect I have for the people standing out here for this is beyond what I can say."
Racette, stationed at Fort Polk in Vernon Parish, La., on active duty, walked the grounds shaking hands with each flag-flying Patriot Guard and military member there, and hugging peers and parents alike. He will be deployable beginning Jan. 20, 2013.
"I told his family we won't be doing this again," Racette said. "Right now is the last time this happens. We'll go there, do what we need to do and come back."
U.S. Rep. John Olver, D-Amherst, also exiting, commented that he was "not surprised by the crowd."
"North Adams is a community that takes care of its own," Olver said. "There was a lot of feeling in there."
Olver called attending such community gatherings, "Part of the job that we [congressman] need to do."
"We just hope the majority of our visits are for happier reasons," Olver said. " ... This is an important thing, one you hope and pray you won't have to attend anymore, especially [in the case of] youths killed in Iraq or Afghanistan."
Lieutenant Governor Timothy P. Murray also attended, reminiscing about his time spent in the city over the years.
"I've had a chance to get to know North Adams, and my sense is that it's a close-knit city ... when a tragedy like this takes place, it's remarkable to see people rally around the family and celebrate Michael's life ... I credit his family and the city of North Adams for raising up a young man like that, and it's important to celebrate his life and not forget what he gave for all of us."
Mayor Richard Alcombright praised city residents for their continued support since DeMarsico's death on Aug. 16.
"Like Wednesday, like this week, like last week: Again, the outpouring of comfort, prayer and hope for the DeMarsico family was just extraordinary. ... I've often heard it said: ‘You can tell the number of lives that somebody has positively impacted by the line at their wake.' Today was a testament to how many lives Michael touched."
Gary Swain, a Pittsfield resident and member of the Patriot Guard Riders, stood outside holding a flag, among others, for the entire five-hour duration of the calling hours.
He and fellow members show respect for fallen soldiers and attend "welcome home" celebrations throughout New England and New York as part of the national Patriot Guard Riders organization.
"The reaction here has hit a lot closer to home, because it was a local person," Swain said. "It made it about much more than just showing respect."
Swain and a fellow Patriot Guard then spoke out in unison: "Welcome homes are better."
To reach Phil Demers, email