Moments of Silence and Emotional Tributes: How America Is Honoring Lives Lost on the 19th Anniversary of 9/11

Though names of victims are typically read aloud by family members on a stage, this year, because of coronavirus, names were pre-recorded and broadcast

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden (center), Dr. Jill Biden (left) and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (right) attend a 9/11 memorial service at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum on September 11, 2020
(L-R) Jill Biden, Joe Biden, Andrew Cuomo. Photo: Amr Alfiky - Pool/Getty

Family members, loved ones and politicians alike gathered in Lower Manhattan on Friday morning to pay tribute to the nearly 3,000 lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001.

The annual anniversary ceremony held at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum looked different than it has in years past, as mourners wore masks to adhere to coronavirus protocols, and the usual stage in which loved ones read aloud the names of victims was absent.

Instead, starting at 8:40 a.m., a pre-recorded list of family members reading the names was broadcast at the eight-acre plaza and streamed live online, as cameras captured masked attendees consoling each other, and holding items like roses, flags and photos of their loved ones.

Alice Greenwald, 9/11 Memorial Museum director, told WNBC that the stage was nixed because organizers feared that people would “naturally gather” around it, which would violate social distancing rules.

Visiting dignitaries greeted each other with elbow bumps instead of handshakes, according to The New York Times.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Democratic presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) arrive for a remembrance ceremony on the 19th anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks at the National September 11 Memorial
(L-R) Andrew Cuomo, Joe Biden, Chuck Schumer. Chip Somodevilla/Getty

“[COVID and 9/11 are] two of the most traumatic things that have ever happened to New York City, and it’s probably changed forever,” Diane Massaroli, who lost her husband Michael on 9/11, told the Times. “We just have to find a different way to live now. Like I had to find a different way to live then.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden, who is running for president against Donald Trump in November, was present at the ceremony, and was photographed standing beside his wife, Jill, as well as Vice President Mike Pence.

Accompanied by First Lady Melania Trump, President Donald Trump spoke at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania around 10:20 a.m. ET.

Biden is expected to travel to Shanksville later in the day.

Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden (L) greets US Vice President Mike Pence as they attend a ceremony at the 9/11 Memorial
(L-R) Joe Biden, Mike Pence. ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty

Pence and his wife, Second Lady Karen Pence, also attended a ceremony in New York's Zuccotti Park, which was held by the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, the Times reported.

Pence reportedly read biblical passages at the event, where about 125 relatives of 9/11 victims read names aloud.

In the plaza that once held the North and South Towers of the World Trade Center, gatherers on Friday observed four moments of silence accompanied by the ringing of a bell — one to mark each of the four terror attacks on Sept. 11.

Silence fell first at 8:46 a.m., the time that American Airlines Flight 11 was hijacked and flown into the North Tower. Then at 9:03 a.m., a moment was observed once again to mark the time that hijackers flew United Airlines Flight 175 into the South Tower.

RELATED VIDEO: Children of 9/11: Six Teens on Growing Up Without Dads 15 Years After Attacks

A third moment of silence came at 9:37 a.m., when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon, and then a fourth and final came at 10:03 a.m., the time United Airlines Flight 93 crashed into a field near Stonycreek Township, Pennsylvania.

The attacks killed 2,977 people across three different sites. In Lower Manhattan, 2,753 people died, while 184 people were killed at the Pentagon. An additional 40 people were killed when Flight 93 crashed, according to the 9/11 Memorial & Museum.

More than 2,000 deaths have been attributed to 9/11-related illnesses, including cancer, according to Mount Sinai.

As the morning ceremony continued, many, including former President George W. Bush, who was in office when the attacks occurred, paid tribute to the victims 19 years after the tragedy devastated the United States.

The ceremony comes months after the coronavirus first ravaged New York City, killing about one of every 360 residents, according to the Times.

The pandemic was initially cited as the reason why the annual Tribute in Light — which sends two blue beams of light into the air until dawn on Sept. 12 — was canceled, which prompted backlash.

Organizers reversed the decision in August, with Greenwald saying in a statement that the tribute’s “message of hope, endurance, and resilience are more important than ever.”

The 9/11 Memorial and Museum will open on Friday to family members for the first time in six months, before its doors open again to the general public on Saturday.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.

Related Articles