Families, New Yorkers Share Memories Of 9/11 Victims, 18 Years Later

WCBS 880 Newsroom
September 11, 2019 - 12:36 pm

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Wednesday was an emotional day for many New Yorkers as the country remembered the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks at the World Trade Center.

The attack, which changed New York and the world forever, still brings up raw emotions for many.

Families of the victims of the attacks come to the site where the twin towers once stood every year to visit their loved ones' final resting place.

In full dress uniform, retired Army Sgt. Edwin Morales joined the crowd of mourners while clinging to a shadow box of photographs and mementos.

He told WCBS 880’s Sean Adams that he always shows up to the ceremony for two people – his cousin, FDNY firefighter Ruben Korea, who died on 9/11, and his American Legion commander Jimmy Lancer, of FDNY Engine 53/Ladder, who died two years ago from 9/11-related cancer.

“My tears would never dry up and my heart would never heal. I think of Ruben every day. I worked over here at the 9/11 (memorial). I'm a security officer, so I stand at Holy Ground every day when I work and I actually work right in the spot where Ruben was taken out, where he perished,” Morales said. “That's the spot where they put me. They said, ‘you are going to be alright, it's called the 9/11 Memorial Glade.’ That's my permanent poles and I stand that Holy Ground watching over Ruben and Ruben is watching over me from the heavens.”

Gregory Hoffman also tells Adams about his twin brother, Stephen, who unfortunately never made it out of the towers. He says his brother was “simply the best,” and he loved life and loved people.

“I’m the older one by three minutes, you know, we were always together. We had a great life together and it's amazing eighteen years seems like yesterday. It's amazing how it just doesn't seem like – time seems to just kind of warped in that way,” he explains.

Stephen’s daughter, Madeline, was just five years old when her father died, but she says she’ll always be grateful for the memories they had together.

“Today is always hard, you know, it's difficult but, the memories I do have – just being little and him playing guitar to me, being at the beach, him being a football coach, the way he impacted so many lives – those are the things that help me through today. Help me through a hard day like today,” she says.

Meanwhile, fire chief Joe Downey told WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell that he is just trying to keep his father’s memory alive.

His father, Ray, was the deputy chief of the special operations command at the time of the attacks and he wasted no time rushing to the scene of the attacks.

His father would unfortunately die during his rescue efforts, but 18 years later, Downey continues to hold his memory close to his heart.

"I do the same thing every year, I go down to the site. We lost him there, part of him is there,” he said.

Roughly 40% of the victims in 9/11 have never been identified, Haskell reported.

Many families who arrive at the ceremony every year never truly got closure, but the memorial hopes to provide some comfort.

During the ceremony, there were six moments of silence and family members of the victims were invited to participate in reading their names aloud.

The first moment of silence happens at 8:46 a.m., observing the time the American Airlines flight struck the North Tower.

As part of a new law signed this week by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, all New York public schools will also be required to hold a moment of silence to mark the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. 

Lawmakers in New Jersey are looking into similar legislation, but the moment of reflection was not mandated for every school in the Garden State on the 18th anniversary.

State Senate President Stephen Sweeney said state leaders should “absolutely” enact the law, but doesn’t know if any lawmaker has drafted a bill.

Any bill would need to be approved by both houses of the Legislature and signed by Gov. Phil Murphy to become law.

Of the nearly 3,000 people who died on 9/11, more than 700 were from New Jersey.