JERSEY CITY, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — In Jersey City, friends and family of 9/11 victims gathered Saturday to honor their memories in a solemn tribute.

Bagpipes opened the reflection ceremony on Grand Street as people gathered to remember friends, family, neighbors and first responders lost 20 years ago. A bell rang for every name.

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As CBS2’s Meg Baker reported, the area on the waterfront served as a triage center for thousands who came from across the Hudson River searching for help.

“The Jersey City Fire Department, the Jersey City Police Department, Jersey City EMS, countless civilians, they comforted thousands of people that came from the water taxis, contaminated with dust and injured, and just, I’m sure they didn’t know what to do with them, but they were human that day, and they just helped another human,” said Jersey City Fire Battalion Chief Richard Gorman.

Complete Coverage9/11 Twenty Years Later

Gorman was with the state police and Task Force 1 in 2001.

“September 11th, we were on the ground at Ground Zero, and we were there for quite some time doing 24 hour operations, searching for life that wasn’t to be found,” he said.

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Barbara Smith, a speaker at the reflection ceremony, told Baker about her friend, Barbara Etzold, who she commuted to work with. Etzold never made it home that day.

“I can only hope that she didn’t feel any pain or know what was happening. It’s just so hard to believe that it’s 20 years,” Smith said. “I’ve been coming here, to the Jersey City memorial, every year and this is the first time the families and friends have been allowed to participate.”

“Why is it so important for you to come here every year and take the time?” Baker asked.

“That’s how we keep people alive. We talk about them, we remember them. The sadness never goes away, but you have to be able to keep them alive in your memory,” said Smith. “That’s the only hope we have.”

Gov. Phil Murphy visited Liberty State Park for the 9/11 Memorial Foundation’s Empty Sky Remembrance ceremony.

Most who lost someone that awful day say they cannot believe it’s been 20 years without their loved ones, saying they will never be forgotten and will always be in their hearts.

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CBS2’s Meg Baker contributed to this report.

CBSNewYork Team