Emotions were still raw at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum Friday, 19 years after 2,977 people were killed in the coordinated terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and United Airlines Flight 93.
The emphasis though for most was “never forget,” which seemed to echo even louder this year amid the ongoing tragedy of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Families placed flowers, photos, and other knickknacks on the etched names of their loved ones on the walls of the 9/11 Memorial North and South Pools as they have in the past — some renewed their vows to make sure the lost were not forgotten. The pools represent the location of the former Twin Towers.
Lucrezia Susca lost her daughter Grace in the South Tower nearly two decades ago on that fateful Tuesday morning. She sat in a chair and listened to the recorded names read at the site.
“I loved her – I come here every year, and will keep coming here every year,” Susca said.
Stephanie Lachman stood next to the names of her father, Amarnauth Lachman, and his construction partner, Andrew James Knox, both killed while working in the South Tower. She said she would continue to come to make sure her father was remembered.
Marie Fisher sat in a wheelchair, determined to make sure the public remembered her son, Andrew.
“He was in the North Tower, he wasn’t supposed to be there but he was at conference at Windows on the World. We won’t forget him, and we will keep coming,” said Marie Fisher, who noted that she had met former Vice President (and current presidential candidate) Joe Biden, who took part in Friday’s ceremony. She got to take a picture with him.
Joe Biden, doing that thing that Joe Biden does, but that we haven’t seen much of during the pandemic pic.twitter.com/J9W0rnN2Bq
— Christopher Cadelago (@ccadelago) September 11, 2020
Joanna Barbara, wife of Chief Jerry Barbara, remembered her husband and his response to the attacks. Daily News photographer David Handschuh snapped a photo of the chief on that day, staring up at the burning World Trade Center; she made the picture into a button.
“He went into the Marriott, his radio didn’t work. An aide went to get a new radio from trunk of the car, and that was the last he was seen. He was never recovered and we had no remains,” she sighed. “I’ve been doing this now, for 19 years, and I’m here every single time on Sept. 11.”
Joanna was disappointed that the names weren’t read live at the 9/11 Memorial. The live-reading was canceled this year due to concerns over the potential spread of COVID-19. The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation conducted a live reading Friday morning near Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan.
“The names have to be read, and they are individuals. It’s unfortunate that when you are part of the government, then you are part of the state and the city, and part of the FDNY – but really you are an individual and everyone here has an individual loss and that should be recognized,” she said. “We lost someone, and sometimes we don’t want to share that loss with everyone. Not only did we lose our loved ones, but our privacy.”
Tamiya Lee, wife of the late NYPD Detective Jeffrey Alan Lee who died of 9/11 related cancer, took a selfie with Vice President Biden, who was there with his wife Jill at the ceremony.
“[Jeffrey] was a 9/11 responder who passed away from 9/11 related disease and he should be remembered always as a wonderful man, human being and an excellent New York City cop. We love the NYPD – they are our family,” Tamiya Lee said.
Barbara Noboa was honoring family friends who died on 9/11 she brought her young daughter Charlie Vasquez
“We are here to honor them,” she said, adding that her daughter will be “the next story teller, she tells everybody.”
“I know the building fell and a few people died,” Vazquez said.
“That’s what she knows – we will wait till she’s a little older, right Charlie,” Noboa said.
While many were happy to share memories of their loved ones, others spent the time quietly in their own thoughts. Some were firefighters, a few rookies, too young to remember the day clearly.
Flowers adorned the pool memorials. Many family members vowed to return for the 20th anniversary next year – some saying it was necessary for a live-reading of the names.
Edwin Mendez said he would be back for his nephew with his family, to honor not only his nephew Firefighter Ruben Correa, but his cousin Isaac Cortes, killed in Iraq subsequently.
“We will keep coming back every year and we will not let him be forgotten,” Mendez said after laying a photo montage of his nephew on the ground with his family and friends.
Biden, Pence attend memorials
Along with the official 9/11 Memorial and the name-reading at Zuccotti Park, there were mini-memorials held outside firehouses and police stations across the city. Most took place at 8:46 a.m. — the moment the hijacked American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center, which began the horrific attack.
Despite the threat of COVID-19, thousands attended the memorials at the 9/11 Tribute Center at the World Trade Center headlined by the Bidens along with Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Second Lady Karen Pence. They were surrounded by other elected officials. All were wearing masks, though the crowd surrounding them were hardly socially distant.
Family members took selfies with Biden and Governor Andrew Cuomo, who hobnobbed with the crowds of families who came to remember their loved ones. But many were insistent that their loved ones be remembered.
After speaking at the Tunnel to Towers 9/11 Memorial at Zuccotti Park, Vice President Pence headed over to FDNY’s Ladder & Engine 10 on Liberty St., where many of his supporters shouted their support. The Ten House lost six of their on-duty members that day.
Several commanders presented Pence with a “343” pin and a “Don’t Forget” bracelet.