NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — As the 19th anniversary of 9/11 came to a close, the Tribute in Light illuminated the sky over New York City.

The beauty of the lights could be seen from across the Hudson River. People dining outdoors were looking at them Friday night, remembering the nearly 3,000 souls killed in the terrorist attacks.

“It’s so hard,” Manhattan resident Laura P. said.

Nineteen years later, the day is still tough for Laura, who broke down at the World Trade Center memorial, crying out the daily pain of loss that has not left her side since the attacks killed her fiance.

“He was the most beautiful love story in my life and I’ll remember him for the rest of my life,” she said.

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Queens resident John Zapata understands that kind of heartache.

He fought back emotions while standing outside the ticket counter, waiting to honor his firefighter cousin inside the museum, a place he worried would be closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s very personal for me, and it’s great to see a lot of people here visiting,” Zapata said.

People like Los Angeles firefighter Jim Hagie, who flew all the way from California to pay his respects, remembering the fallen first responders and capturing the names of two friends he says were on board Flight 11 that crashed into the north tower.

“It was absolutely devastating. I’ll never forget where I was, what I was doing that day, that moment,” Hagie said.

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But it was the Tribute in Light lighting up the night sky that had Nancy Mayette, of New Jersey, in tears.

“I’ve been wanting to come here all these years,” she said.

It was canceled in August because the 9/11 Memorial and Museum had concerns it would put the production crew’s health at risk, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo and others stepped in, ensuring coronavirus safety measures.

A decision Mayette is glad was made.

“Brings back the memories. It’s beautiful. I didn’t expect it to be so clear, and you can see the lights. I’ll never forget that day,” she said.

The 9/11 Museum was only open to family members who lost loved ones Friday. It reopens to the general public Saturday with strict COVID guidelines, like mandatory face coverings, reduced capacity to 25% and timed tickets.

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