They sat in silent reflection to remember loved ones and to honor the generosity of the unidentified men and women who will prove instrumental in their success.
About 150 people gathered yesterday on the lawn outside Springfield Hospital Center's Patterson House in Sykesville to honor the men and women who willed their bodies to medical science.
A single stone marks the site where the ashes of thousands of donors have been buried.
For more than 20 years, the Maryland Anatomy Board has held memorial services for the donors. The cadavers aid medical students at University of Maryland School of Medicine and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda in the study of anatomy.
"I truly benefit from this," said Dr. Larry Anderson, vice chairman of the State Anatomy Board, which collects and distributes cadavers to state medical schools.
Anderson spoke to students and donors' families, recounting in a somber tone how the cadavers have given his medical students "the privilege to really learn."
Gov. Parris N. Glendening's office proclaimed yesterday Anatomical Donor Appreciation Day. In a letter to those in attendance, the governor expressed his gratitude for the generosity of the donors.
Vicki Szimanski of Edgemere prayed for the generations of donors in her family. Several of her relatives, including her grandparents, have been donors.
Szimanski doubts she will follow in the family's footsteps.
She and her husband are state troopers, and have seen the types of things that a cadaver can go through.
"I'm at the medical examiner's office a lot," she said, fighting tears. "It's easier to [donate] when you haven't seen what can happen."
Even so, Szimanski said she was glad to attend the service to remember her family members.
"It's nice for them to have a final resting place," she said.
Though they never personally knew those being honored, medical students who attended sympathized.
"It brings closure for us," said Ben Snyder, a first-year medical student at the University of Maryland. "We've worked intimately with these bodies, and I think being here shows the community that we really think this is an important and incredible teaching tool."