NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Holding photos and reading names of loved ones lost 16 years ago, 9/11 victims’ relatives, survivors, rescuers and others have gathered at the World Trade Center memorial to mark the anniversary of the terror attacks that changed the nation.
Monday’s commemoration began with a moment of silence and tolling bells at 8:46 a.m. It’s the time when American Airlines Flight 11 slammed into the World Trade Center’s north tower.READ MORE: 2 MTA Bus Passengers Struck By Stray Bullet When Gunfire Erupts In Queens
Then victims’ relatives began reading the names of the nearly 3,000 people killed when four hijacked planes hit the trade center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field on Sept. 11, 2001.
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A second bell tolled at 9:03 a.m. to mark the moment United Airlines Flight 175 slammed into the World Trade Center’s south tower. A third bell tolled at 9:37 a.m. to mark the moment American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into the Pentagon.
The fourth and fifth bells tolled to mark the moments: 9:59 a.m. for the fall of the south tower and 10:03 a.m. for when United Airlines Flight 93 crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. A sixth bell tolled at 10:28 a.m. for the fall of the north tower.
Former FDNY Deputy Chief Rich Alles remembers and at each Sept. 11th anniversary ceremony, uses all his strength to hold himself together.
“I can let it get very difficult but I discipline myself not to do that,” he told CBS2’s Dick Brennan. “I lost several extremely close friends of mine, many friends, many colleagues. I probably knew close to three-quarters of the firefighters that got killed that day.”
Sixteen years after 9/11, no one forgets the great spirit that took over the city, New Yorkers fighting back but also reaching out.
“It was incredible,” Alles said. “We were bused into the area to work, the crowds cheering — cheering us on and the signs, the signs too. It was exhausting days, didn’t want another ten-hour day, but that gave us strength.”
But there’s always the fear that as the years pass, memories fade.
“When I was a child growing up, we were taught in school about Pearl Harbor, World War II. I got that it was many years before I was born and I just don’t feel enough attention is being paid in our schools about September 11th and what it was all about,” Alles said.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo spent the solemn anniversary riding down the West Side Highway to the World Trade Center on a motorcycle.
Cuomo on his Harley-Davidson led several hundred bikers down the highway from the Javits Center to the 9/11 Memorial, WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond reported. The annual tradition was preceded by his signing of a bill allowing any sick 9/11 first responder anywhere in New York to take as many sick days as needed.
“We will always have your back. Sacrifice is a two way street,” Cuomo said. “Thank you and God bless you.”
The measure will benefit dozens of emergency personnel throughout the state who worked in the days and weeks after 9/11 at Ground Zero.
Earlier Monday morning, the September 11 Memorial and Museum opened solely for family members, bearing solemn witness to the attacks of that fateful day, those who died and the people who risked their lives to save others.
For many making the annual pilgrimage to Ground Zero on this 16th anniversary, the pain is still be very raw.
“We don’t have anything per se that we can bury, so for us we have to come here and be able to unite with each other and feel the love and warmth of each other,” said Miriam Maldonado, who lost her sister Debbie.
“It brings back all the guys you knew who went,” retired FDNY Firefighter Francis Wenke said. “It’s emotional.”
“I was on my way into Tower 2 when Tower 2 came down,” said retired FDNY Firefighter Kevin Kelly, who lost his best friend. “If it went the other way, which it could have, he would have been there for my wife, I do the same for him.”
Some of the smallest participants in today’s ceremony are relatives born well after that fateful day.
“Dad, this is Brady he’s your first grandson. He was born this past July on 7/7/17,” said the son of Paul Dario Curioli. “In the delivery room there was a picture of a bird house and my dad used to love crafting bird houses from wood and seeing that picture I knew he was looking down on us.”
Three out of the five buildings, including One, Four and Seven World Trade, are now open and occupied with residents and businesses alike. According to the Downtown Alliance, 61,000 people now live in the neighborhood, triple the number in 2000, helping to transform the site of America’s worst horrors into a symbol of rebirth.
An honor guard made up of individuals representing the FDNY, NYPD, and Port Authority Police Department also took part in Monday’s ceremony.
Special services were also held Monday for 9/11 victims who worked for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. As WCBS 880’s Mike Sugerman reported, 84 people who worked for the agency died on Sept. 11, 2001.
“I probably knew maybe half of them,” said Enoch Lipson.
Lipson was a higher-up in the engineering department. For him, the service at St. Peter’s was bittersweet. It was sad, but a reunion of sorts.
“Like going to the cemetery a year after the funeral to see the stone put in,” he said.
Sal Ayala made it out during the attacks. He was on the 43rd floor of one of the towers.
“I call myself the walking wounded,” he said. “At this time of year, those feelings come back,” he said.
Also honored were the six Port Authority staffers who died in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
Reflections on 9/11 continued well into the evening. Mayor Bill de Blasio was among the local leaders gathered at the Staten Island Sept. 11 memorial Monday night.
The memorial was designed to resemble a pair of wings reaching into the sky, honoring victims from the borough.
The mayor spoke Monday night, admonishing the 9/11 attackers and admiring the resilience of the loved ones left behind.
“They didn’t turn us away from our beliefs and our faith in each other, and they certainly didn’t stop families from continuing to grow and continuing to love and be strong,” de Blasio said.
The mayor also offered further words of comfort, saying we all should remember the victims and “live a life as good as them.”
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump observed a moment of silence at the White House on Monday at the time the first airplane hit.
He later took part in a 9/11 observance at the Pentagon. Vice President Mike Pence was representing the administration a ceremony at the 9/11 memorial in Shanksville.MORE NEWS: Pressure Builds On President Biden's Administration To Loosen International Travel Ban Into The Country
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