NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Relatives and loved ones of 9/11 victims convened Sunday to mark the 15th anniversary of the terror attacks.
The gathering is at once familiar and unique, CBS2’s Lou Young reported. With the passage of years, the commemoration becomes increasingly instructive.
PHOTOS: Nation Remembers 9/11 Attacks
“Already there are young people in high school for whom 9/11 is not a lived memory, it’s already past history for them,” Alice Greenwald, 9/11 Museum director, said.
CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez reported that one by one, each of the nearly 3,000 people killed on Sept. 11, 2001 were honored by their loved ones as they read their names along the footprint where the Twin Towers once stood.
“I was 10 years old. My brothers were 8, 7 and 5. Today, I am proud to be here to memorialize my father,” Jerry D’Amadeo said. “Even though it’s been 15 years, the pain and the loss has not diminished. We will never forget.”
The faces of those lost were raised high above the crowd. Tears were shed over the shared loss and heartache that time has not changed.
The grief has enlightened those who have grown stronger. Granvilette Kestenbaum lost her astrophysicist husband Howard Kestenbaum when the South Tower collapsed.
“Those of us who have lost our loved ones to violence, we know the shock, grief and anger that follows — the heartache that won’t heal,” Kestenbaum said.
For many who make the annual pilgrimage to Ground Zero to honor their lost family and friends, it’s a way to stay connected and be inspired by their memory.
Part of exploring that past history is to speak with those of us who were there then. People like Joseph Herbert, a deputy chief with the NYPD now working exclusively on counterterrorism.
“It was my introduction to terrorism, the attacks on 9/11 — the bodies, the pain, the agony,” Herbert said. “It was very difficult. It’s difficult for me to come back here. Being here today brings back all the emotion, the pain and the heartache.”
American Airlines pilot Jack Deblase, of California, lost friends who were aboard the airplanes 15 years ago, WCBS 880’s Kelly Waldron reported. It took him nearly 15 years to have the strength to come back here.
“It’s hard for me to actually watch it on television or any of the events on it,” Deblase said.
“My brothers and sisters that served this city dedicated themselves, and I don’t let nobody ever forget these men and women who perished,” another mourner, who lost friends who worked as FDNY responders, told 1010 WINS’ Roger Stern.
1010 WINS’ Samantha Liebman reported people from around the world came to New York to pay their respects.
“I’m proud to be here every year for this remembrance,” said Mark, a firefighter from France.
A ceremony was also held at the Staten Island 9/11 Postcards memorial.
Organizers are keeping traditions that have made the ceremony a constant in how America remembers Sept. 11, even as ground zero and the nation changes.
The customs include moments of silence and tolling bells, an apolitical atmosphere and the reading of the nearly 3,000 names of those killed in New York, at the Pentagon and near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Attendance has ebbed over the years as the initial shock of the event fades a bit. There is time to examine what happened and consider perhaps that the attack was far more successful than the terrorists anticipated, unleashing forces of history no one could’ve anticipated.
A decade and a half of warfare followed the attacks. The conflict has morphed and spread like a fire — at times endangering our own sense of what it is to be free. New enemies have arisen — and despite the death of Osama Bin Laden — the old enemy and the very mastermind of the plot remains.
“The world changed on 9/11,” NYPD Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said. “Terrorism became a constant concern — something we have to be aware of. Going forward, let’s face it — to defeat terrorism, it’s going to take years and years — if ever.”
President Barack Obama spoke at an observance at the Pentagon. He called on Americans to embrace the nation’s character as a people drawn from every corner of the world, from every religion and from every background. He said extremist groups will never be able to defeat the United States.
“We know that our diversity, our patchwork heritage is not a weakness, it is still and always will be one of our greatest strengths,” Obama said. “This is the America that was attacked that September morning. This is the America that we must remain true to.”
In the end, he said, the enduring memorial to those who lost their lives that day is ensuring “that we stay true to ourselves, that we stay true to what’s best in us, that we do not let others divide us.”
“How we conduct ourselves as individuals and as a nation, we have the opportunity each and every day to live up to the sacrifice of those heroes that we lost,” Obama said.
A ceremony was also held at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville.
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