Street closures for UN General Assembly

16 years on, 9/11 commemorations have changed, but dedication continues

LOWER MANHATTAN — It's been sixteen years since the 9/11 attacks, and while much has changed since that fateful day, family members and friends of the fallen who were at Monday's memorial ceremony said that the most important things remain:  dedication to fallen loved ones and devotion to fellow family members.

"It's an obligation to honor those people for their service," said Alice Greenwald, president and CEO of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, "and to acknowledge what these people are going through, because they were here on that day."

On Monday, the nearly 3,000 names inscribed on the memorial — people killed at the World Trade Center in both 1993 and 2001, as well as those killed at the Pentagon and at Shanksville, Pennsylvania in 2001 — were read.

By next year, there will be a new permanent tribute at the memorial site to those who've lost their lives or have become ill from 9/11-related conditions.

Through Monday's ceremony there were some powerful, poignant silences, including a nearly half-minute of crying by name reader Maggie Lemagne, who read the name of her brother, fallen Port Authority Police Officer David Prudencio Lemagne.

Their father, Prudencio Lemagne, told PIX11 News that he and his family had to be at the World Trade Center site this year, and every year.

"As long as we live, we're going to be here!" Lemagne explained.  "It doesn't matter if it's going to be 17 years, 20 years or a hundred years, we're going to be here!"

Sgt. Edwin Morales, a U.S. Army Reservist and cousin of fallen firefighter Ruben Correa, said that the size of the crowd of attendees is "fading away, but for some of us, it's not."

He was on scene with his friend Emily Toro, the mother of U.S. Army Private Isaac Cortes.  He died in Iraq, in the war that 9/11 spawned.  She said that whoever is at the memorial on the 9/11 anniversary is there to be strengthened.

"Being among other people and seeing the tears in their eyes," she said. "It's something you cannot explain."

Other participants, like Gary Guja, twin brother of fallen firefighter Jeff Guja, made clear that many 9/11 families don't end up at the World Trade Center site on the anniversary because they choose to attend the many other ceremonies around the region.  Some also choose to commemorate privately.

In Guja's case, the Twin Towers memorial is just the beginning.

"We start here," he told PIX11 News. "Then there's a memorial out at Cedar Beach, and then we end up over at Lindenhurst at the gravesite, there's a lot of friends that we meet there."