Eyewitness News provided live coverage of the remembrance ceremony as New Yorkers came together to honor the victims
NEW YORK (WABC) -- Americans remembered 9/11 with tear-choked tributes and pleas to "never forget" 21 years after the deadliest terror attack on U.S. soil.
The National September 11 Memorial & Museum hosted its annual commemoration ceremony to honor the 2,983 men, women, and children killed in the 2001 attacks at the World Trade Center site, the Pentagon, aboard Flight 93, and those killed in the February 26, 1993, World Trade Center bombing.
Vice President Kamala Harris and husband Doug Emhoff joined current New York City Mayor Eric Adams and former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, but by tradition, no political figures speak at the ground zero ceremony.
The commemoration was for family members of the victims, who were once again invited to participate in this year's reading of the names.
Bonita Mentis set out to read victims' names at the ground zero ceremony wearing a necklace with a photo of her slain sister, Shevonne Mentis, a 25-year-old Guyanese immigrant who worked for a financial firm.
"It's been 21 years, but it's not 21 years for us. It seems like just yesterday," Mentis said. "The wounds are still fresh."
"No matter how many years have passed, nobody can actually comprehend that what happened that very day," she added.
Like a growing number of those who read names at ground zero, firefighter Jimmy Riches' namesake nephew wasn't born yet when his relative died. But the boy took the podium to honor him.
"You're always in my heart. And I know you are watching over me," he said after reading a portion of the victims' names.
Readers often add personal remarks that form an alloy of American sentiments about Sept. 11 - grief, anger, toughness, appreciation for first responders and the military, appeals to patriotism, hopes for peace, occasional political barbs, and a poignant accounting of the graduations, weddings, births and daily lives that victims have missed. A few readers note recent events, this year ranging from the still ongoing coronavirus pandemic to Russia's war in Ukraine.
Some relatives also lament that a nation which came together - to some extent - after the attacks has since splintered apart. So much so that federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies, which were reshaped to focus on international terrorism after 9/11, now see the threat of domestic violent extremism as equally urgent.
"It took a tragedy to unite us. It should not take another tragedy to unite us again," said Andrew Colabella, whose cousin, John DiGiovanni, died in the 1993 bombing World Trade Center bombing that presaged 9/11.
The niece of WABC-TV engineer Don DiFranco, one of the victims who died in the September 11 terror attacks, paid tribute to her uncle during the reading of names ceremony.
9/11 Memorial Names: A complete list of the names of the 2,983 victims can be found by using the Memorial Guide at names.911memorial.org.
The Tribute in Light, with its beams of light shining into the night sky, returned as a tribute to all those who were killed on September 11, 2001.
Although a very foggy night, the Light was still visible emerging from the World Trade Center site.
Assembled on the roof of the Battery Parking Garage south of the 9/11 Memorial, the twin beams reach up to four miles into the sky and are comprised of eighty-eight 7,000-watt xenon lightbulbs positioned into two 48-foot squares, echoing the shape and orientation of the Twin Towers.
On a clear night, installation can also be viewed from a 60-mile radius around Lower Manhattan.