New York: Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan filled up Monday morning as Americans gathered to commemorate the 16th anniversary of 9/11.
Visitors wore pictures of loved ones around their necks and tucked red roses and American flags into the engraved names on the bronze parapets surrounding the reflecting pools.
East Rutherford, NJ, resident James Taormina came to the site for the very first time to remember his brother, Dennis, a 36-year-old vice president of finance at Marsh & McLennan, who died in the North Tower that day.
“It feels like yesterday,” said Taormina, 39. “I woke up that morning to a phone call from my mother telling me the plane had hit the building and my brother was inside.
“I held hope for weeks until I saw a magazine that showed where the plane hit and I figured he was killed on impact.”
“I never liked driving in the city, but maybe there was a little emotional stress as well,” Taormina said about why he never came before. “It’s a little easier for me now.”
The ceremony at Ground Zero is marked by six moments of silence — to mark the times each plane hit the Twin Towers, to mark when each tower fell and to mark the attacks on the Pentagon and Flight 93.
The names of the nearly 3,000 victims of both the 9/11 and the 1993 World Trade Center attacks are also read.
The annual recitation included touching personal remembrances.
“I know you’re looking down at me with a big, big smile on your face,” said Connor Murphy while fighting back tears. He lost his father, Kevin James Murphy.
Magaly Lemagne broke down before collecting herself to read her brother’s name, David Prudencio Lemagne. She remembered the slain Port Authority and New Jersey police officer as “the embodiment of selflessness and bravery.”
“I hope today as we commemorate the 16th anniversary of 9/11, everyone will stop for a moment and remember all the people who gave their lives that day,” said Lemagne. “Maybe then we can put away our disagreements and become one country again.”
Young grandchildren of 9/11 victims also attended the ceremony, though they’d never gotten the chance to meet their lost relatives.
“I wish more than anything that I could have met you,” Ruth Daly said after reading the name of her late grandmother, Ruth Sheila Lapin. “I’m very proud to be your namesake. I hope you’re watching down on me from heaven.”
Dignitaries at the Manhattan event included Mayor Bill de Blasio, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Sen. Charles Schumer and former Mayor Mike Bloomberg.
President Trump and first lady Melania Trump somberly stepped out of the White House to observe a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m., when American Airlines Flight 11 struck the North Tower.
They bowed their heads with other staffers on the South Lawn as bells tolled and placed their hands over their hearts as taps was played.
The president will participate in a 9/11 observance at the Pentagon, where 184 people were killed when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the building. Most were service members in the Army and Navy.
Trump, who was in New York during the terrorist attacks, spoke of the strength of America after 9/11 and gave thanks to our military.
“We shed our tears in their memory, pledged our devotion in their honor and turned our sorrow into unstoppable resolve to achieve justice in their name,” the president said of the 9/11 victims. “The terrorists who attacked us thought they could incite fear and weaken our spirit, but America cannot be intimidated, and those who try will soon join the long list of vanquished enemies who dare to test our mettle.”
Trump also praised the work of Sgt. Isaac Hoopii, who responded that day and rescued as many as 20 people when the Pentagon was struck.
“He sped to the scene and raced into smoke and fire — few people would’ve done it,” Trump said. “In the pitch black, he began calling out to people in need of help. Isaac heard faint voices and he wanted to answer those faint voices. One by one, he carried people out of the burning rubble.”
Vice President Mike Pence and US Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke delivered remarks at the Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where passengers brought down the plane during a courageous revolt against the al Qaeda hijackers.
Bells tolled and names of the 33 passengers and seven crew members of United Flight 93 were read. On Sunday, ground was broken on the park’s final element — a 93-foot Tower of Voices with 40 tubular wind chimes, one for each victim. It is scheduled to be completed by next year’s anniversary.