LOWER MANHATTAN — New York, and the nation, commemorated the terrorist attacks of 9/11 for the seventeenth time on Tuesday. Before the memorial ceremony began at the World Trade Center, some of the victims' families met with former mayor Michael Bloomberg, among other dignitaries. They said that he told them that nearly half of all Americans weren't born by September 11th, 2001, a fact that underscores the importance of commemorating again, and again.
The weather at the 9/11 Memorial here was as solemn and gray as the ceremony itself. Nonetheless, there were moments throughout the more than four-hour service in which other emotions, including humor, were invoked.
"You always had an eye for style," said Kevin Duffy at the podium, after formally reading some of the nearly 3,000 names, as part of the ceremony, "so I traded in my firefighter uniform for this nice suit, just for you." He said that he was speaking to the spirit of his brother, Firefighter Christopher Duffy.
"It still seems like yesterday," said Kevin Duffy, after the service. "It's hard to put into words how much time has gone by, and how vivid the memories are."
It has been 17 years, over which time the Trade Center site has built up significantly. For most of the ceremony, the 16-acre office complex and retail center was largely open for business.
Family members who spoke with PIX11 News said they didn't fully mind.
"It's nice to see that the memorial is a big part of the growth," said Beth Murphy, whose husband, Kevin Murphy, worked at Marsh & McLennan, an investment firm based in the twin towers that lost 295 employees on 9/11.
Her sister-in-law elaborated. She said that the family has yet to find her brother Kevin's remains.
"Every time until that memorial was built, you would leave on this day and you felt like you couldn't leave him," Mary Beth Dougherty said. Now that the twin memorial pools in the footprints of the towers are the central part of the new World Trade Center site, Dougherty said, "It's beautiful, it's peaceful, it's okay to walk away, and return" the following year, she said.
Another noteworthy part of this year's ceremony was the candor with which the effects of 9/11-related illness, as well as the emotional effects of losing loved ones on 9/11, were discussed from the dais.
The brother-in-law of Vanessa Langer, an office manager at the Trade Center who was four months pregnant when she was killed in the terror attacks, spoke about the deep emotional toll her loss had taken on his other brother and him.
"Eventually, Timmy Langer drank himself to death," he said from the podium, after formally reading some of the names. "The only difference" between him and his brother, he said, "is that I asked for help, and it was freely given."
"For all those who are tasked with the clean up and transformation of Ground Zero and are now sick" from 9/11-related illnesses, he continued, "the results of your sacrifice gave me the courage to transform."
Another noticeable difference at this year's ceremony was the number of children, many of them born quite a few years after 9/11, who formally read names and made dedications to loved ones lost in the tragedy.
"I came into this world not seeing you," a girl barely taller than the podium said into the microphone on it, as she addressed her fallen uncle.
"My mom said that when she was breastfeeding me, I used to stare at your pictures on the wall for a long time."
"You were an exceptional," she continued. "You are an inspiration, and I will follow your example."
Correction: Some names in this story were initially misreported. It has been updated with the correct information.