NYC, Nation Commemorate 9/11 With Somber Tributes, 18 Years Later

WCBS 880 Newsroom
September 11, 2019 - 3:40 pm

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Thousands gathered in lower Manhattan on Wednesday to commemorate the darkest day in New York's history.

Eighteen years after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, victims’ relatives, survivors, first responders and dignitaries mourned the fallen, honored the responders and comforted the sickened during a somber ceremony at the site where World Trade Center's Twin Towers once stood.


Nearly two decades after the attacks, the country continues to grapple with the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil, with many saying the day continues to stir up raw emotions as they remember the nearly 3,000 people killed when hijacked planes were flown directly into the buildings.

The names of all victims – including those who died on the hijacked planes and the Pentagon – were read aloud during the ceremony. Six moments of silence and tolling bells marked the moments the aircrafts struck the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, when each tower fell and when United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in Shanksville.

For many, Sept. 11, 2001 will be a day they'll never forget. The memory of that day remains fresh for former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. 

After the first tower was hit, Giuliani remembers setting up a command center two blocks away from ground zero at a Merrill Lynch office. He remembers being on the phone with the White House when all of a sudden the line went dead and the building started shaking.

"I didn't know what it was — of course it was the first tower coming down, it had hit our building and we were trapped," Giuliani told WCBS 880. "I just think about how close to death we all were... and at the time you didn't think about it, it was only afterwards when Gov. Pataki called me and he said to me, 'I thought you were dead,' and I realized we were in a really dangerous situation."

A tremendous weight then fell on the mayor's shoulders.

"I thought how do we explain this to people? How do we get them back to normal? This never happened before," he recalled.

Former New York Gov. George Pataki said when he got the first reports of the attack he quickly went to work, calling in the National Guard and State Police to help stabilize lower Manhattan.

"What happened was horrific," Pataki said. "The biggest concern I had was the uncertainty, we didn't know if this was an isolated attack or what might happen next. So while we were trying to deal with rescuing lives, we also had to do everything we could to make sure there was no other attack."

This year, a new addition to the memorial honors the thousands of people who have been sickened from exposure to toxic dust at Ground Zero.

 Sickened first responders fought tirelessly all year long to convince Congress to approve the extension of the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund, as more and more people begin developing life-threatening illnesses as a result of inhaling the toxic dust in lower Manhattan in the aftermath of the attacks.

After years of gridlock and a decreasing fund, Congress this summer made sure the fund won't run dry. Trump, a New Yorker who was in the city on 9/11, signed the measure in July while surrounded by victims’ family members.

As 9/11-related illnesses continue to take lives, Dr. Michael Crane who heads the World Trade Center Health Clinic at  Mount Sinai is encouraging the estimated 400,000 people who lived and worked below Canal Street to be monitored.

"We've seen things like prostate cancer and thyroid cancer and some of the blood tumors like leukemia and various other tumors," said Crane. "I'm really still encouraging people to sign up for the program, take interest, particularly those folks who lived and worked there."

Sept. 11 is not only a day for remembrance, but also a day of service.

Hundreds of Americans all day long are expected to volunteer their time at food banks, schools, cleanups and other charitable endeavors as they aim to do their part to remember those who lost their lives.

President Donald Trump joined an observance at the Pentagon while Vice President Mike Pence spoke at the third attack site, near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.