They came with memorials of their own – framed photos, t-shirts, flags, tattoos, light blue ribbons, pins and roses –to remember their family members who died on Sept. 11.
Thousands gathered along the 9/11 Memorial Plaza Thursday morning for the commemoration ceremony. The traditionally-simple proceedings began with a presentation of the American flag and bagpipe playing.At 8:46 a.m., the gatherers observed a city-wide moment of silence to remember the first place striking the World Trade Center’s North Tower, then the reading of the names began.
It took about three hours to read the names of the 2,983 people who died in the World Trade Center attacks, the Pentagon, Flight 93 that crashed near Shanksville, Pa. and the 1993 WTC bombing. There were six moments of silence during the readings to signal the timeline of events.
Many of the 138 readers said their loved ones will always be in their hearts, thanked first responders and reminded those who gathered to never forget what happened in 2001. One young man pledged to serve in the United States Marine Corps to remember his uncle; a woman wore her sister’s “tacky” green Converse All Stars with yellow laces in her memory. Prayers were offered for the Jets, and a daughter wished she could attend Jeter’s last game with her father. Children who have never met their parents sent the message they were enjoying life.
"The pain is still there," said Maria Perez of Island Park, who lost her son, Anthony Perez on 9/11. Perez wears a pendant with a portrait of her 33 year old son, who worked for Cantor Fitzgerald.
"This year has been a little harder for me because I had a dream just recently where he came up and he told me ‘mom, I’m not coming back,’” Perez said.
Perez and her friend, Virginia Gahan, said they come to the ceremony every year, then watch old home videos before going to Cantor Fitzgerald's memorial in the afternoon.
Gahan said she thought there were many more attendees this year.
"It doesn’t get easier," Perez said. "Sometimes I don't know where to go except light a candle and come here."
The ceremony ended shortly before noon with the playing of taps. The plaza was open to victim family members only until 6 p.m., and re-opened to the public for the Tribute in Light.
The ceremony was attended by Mayor Bill de Blasio, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former mayors Michael Bloomberg and Rudy Giuliani, former governors Donald DiFrancesco and George Pataki, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.