Ceremonies on the 19th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks looked different this year amid a pandemic that has unmistakably altered American rituals.
As flags flew at half-staff Friday at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York in remembrance of the nearly 3,000 victims, this year’s ceremony was marked by harrowing loss and coronavirus precautions.
Attendees around the site wore masks, greeted each other with elbow bumps rather than handshakes and stood 6 feet apart.
Instead of relatives reading the names of the dead, a recording of the names from speakers was played around the vast plaza — a change that memorial leaders felt would avoid close contact onstage while allowing families to remember their loved ones at the place where they died.
Families who attend, as in previous years, have exclusive access to the museum on Sept. 11. Earlier in mid-March, the memorial and the museum closed, and only the memorial has reopened this July.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden was in attendance at the national remembrance ceremony at Ground Zero on Friday morning, along with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Vice President Mike Pence. Biden and President Donald Trump are also expected to attend the ceremony at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pa. on Friday.
Ahead of his trip from Delaware to New York, Biden told reporters on Friday morning: “I’m not gonna make any news today. I’m not gonna talk about anything other than 9/11. We took all our advertising down, it’s a solemn day, and that’s how we’re going to keep it.”
Trump delivered remarks on Friday morning at the memorial in Shanksville, where one of the hijacked planes crashed in a field, killing everyone on board.
“To every 9/11 member all across this nation: The first lady and I come to this hallowed ground deeply aware that we cannot fill the void in your heart or erase the terrible sorrow of this day,” Trump said. “While we cannot erase your pain, we can help to shoulder your burden.”
The president honored both the first responders who died during the attacks and those who fought back against the Flight 93 hijackers.
“The 40 intrepid souls of Flight 93 died as true heroes. Their momentous deeds will outlive us all,” he added.
Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, are set to visit later in the afternoon.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.
Elisha Fieldstadt contributed.