EAST MEADOW, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Thursday night, many in our area honored the thousands who died in the 9/11 attacks ahead of Saturday’s solemn 20th anniversary.

Across from the 9/11 memorial in East Meadow, Long Island, families read the names of the 348 Nassau County residents who lost their lives that day.

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“My husband, Joel Miller, who never got to meet any of the seven grandchildren we share,” one woman said.

“My wife, Mary Weiman. I would’ve been married 40 years this week,” one man said.

Deborah Garcia honored her late husband, David, in verse.

“He wasn’t a soldier, famous scholar or king, simply a loving family man doing the right thing,” she said.

Cathy Marchese Collins lost her sister Laura Marchese. She was 35 and engaged to be married when she was killed in the North Tower.

“Twenty years doesn’t make it any easier. She’s loved and missed more than words can say. I’m thankful for the 35 years we had with her,” Marchese Collins said.

She visits her sister’s name often at the Long Island memorial.

“Reading these names, I feel the pain of these families because I know what our family went through. I know what our family is still going through,” she told CBS2’s Ali Bauman.

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Nassau County has unveiled a new monument in its 9/11 memorial. The new one pays tribute to the first responders who lost their lives to illness in the years since.

“It’s heart wrenching for me, really, because I know that people are dying every day,” said Alaine Alvarez, the widow of Lou Alvarez.

He was a former NYPD detective who died in 2019 from complications of cancer linked to his work at Ground Zero.

“When it’s related to something so horrific from so long ago and it still has its effects, it’s hard,” Alaine Alvarez said.

Over in Queens, there was a similar ceremony outside the borough hall Thursday.

In New Jersey, the Cedar Grove High School students have installed nearly 3,000 American flags on the school’s lawn, each marked with a victim’s name.

“Today’s students are visual learners, and the way you see it, you digest the amount of devastation that it actually caused,” said David Schoner, vice president of the Cedar Grove Board of Education.

Lessons like these, Marchese Collins says, are key to our remembrance.

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“It’s important you don’t forget,” she said.

Ali Bauman