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The Pandemic Changes The Look Of Annual Sept. 11 Memorial Events

SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:

Today, for the 19th time, New Yorkers remembered the victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

(SOUNDBITE OF BAGPIPES PLAYING)

PFEIFFER: A remembrance for victims of a catastrophe that shaped the last generation unfolding amid the pandemic that may well define the next.

JAYE MARKWELL: It's actually more difficult than any of the other years because, you know, the social distancing and not being able to give each other comfort and hugs.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

That's Jaye Markwell, who lives in Connecticut. She came to the city after the attack to volunteer for the Salvation Army.

MARKWELL: You cannot express or explain it to anybody who was not here - the sights, the sounds, the smells. I can, to this day, still smell it.

CHANG: Every year, she gets together with friends she met back in 2001. Many of them aren't coming down this year.

MARKWELL: I'm lost today. I'm literally lost. I'm wandering around.

PFEIFFER: Some of the traditional rituals continued. At the 9/11 Memorial Plaza, at ground zero, moments of silence marked the times when the planes hit the World Trade Center towers.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

PFEIFFER: Usually, family members read names of the nearly 3,000 victims one by one. This year, due to COVID-19 concerns, they stood by as a recorded reading played over loudspeakers.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Gordon M. Aamoth Jr.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Edelmiro Abad.

CHANG: A separate group, the Tunnel to Towers Foundation, took issue with the restrictions and hosted a separate event with names read live just one block away.

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: The horrific loss of life requires that we read these names out loud in person on this day every year.

(APPLAUSE)

PFEIFFER: Kenny Camey was just 3 years old on the day of the attacks. He moved to New York City from Texas for college, and this was his first time at the remembrance.

KENNY CAMEY: One thing that's nice to see is a sense of community that, especially in New York City, we can all come together for one thing. That's important to all of us.

PFEIFFER: He'd been standing, listening, for almost three hours and planned to stay. He said it wasn't just names being read; it was a story being told.

(SOUNDBITE OF OSKAR SCHUSTER'S "FJARLAEGUR") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.