Some of them forgotten in life, the 550 victims of this summer's paralyzing heat were remembered in death by scores of mourners who promised such a tragedy would not happen again.
Hundreds of people attended Wednesday's service in a downtown church bedecked with 500 pink orchids on a huge wreath. Concert violinist Rachel Barton, who recently lost a leg in a train accident, played a haunting tribute to the victims. Members of the Chicago Children's Choir sang hymns in between the sermons."It appears that trouble and tragedy are often our most profound teachers," said Alan Ragland, pastor of the Third Baptist Church.
"Nobody is to blame, but everybody is responsible," he said. "If we carry guilt, it is a collective guilt."
Last month's disaster forced an anguished city - known for its neighborhoods - to determine why so few knew of the danger to their friends, relatives and neighbors before it was too late. Many victims were elderly people living alone.
"I came because I felt that these were the forgotten people and that they did not die of the heat, they died of neglect," mourner Zenobia Baker said. "I felt that someone should be here to mourn their deaths because they died such a miserable, uncalled-for death."
Gruesome images of refrigerated trucks waiting to unload bodies into the medical examiner's offices reminded Chicagoans "we can find a way to keep bodies cold when they are dead and not when they are still living," said Rabbi Eleanor Smith of Beth-Emet, the Free Synagogue.
All but four of the victims died from the heat wave that peaked at 106 degrees July 13. The others died from last weekend's heat wave that brought temperatures in the mid-90s.