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9/11 Remembered: 19 Years Later, Coronavirus Pandemic Makes Honoring Loved Ones Especially Challenging

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - In this most challenging year, September 11th takes on an even more poignant meaning, as we once again remember lives lost and celebrate the heroes.

It's been 19 years since the terror attacks, and now a solemn anniversary like we've never seen before.

"This will be the first year that my husband and I will not be going down to the memorial," said Tracy Gazzani, who lost her son on 9/11.

For 18 years, Tracy and Marty Gazzani have been at the annual 9/11 commemoration at the former World Trade Center site to mourn the loss of their only child, Terry. He worked for Cantor Fitzgerald on the 104th floor of the north tower.

"I stand very close to the podium. As they get to the letter G, I'll always go stand by Terry's memorial," she said.

But this year, because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Gazzanis felt it was safer to stay home.

"We had to learn a different world from September 11th, and now because of COVID, we're learning a whole other," Tracy said.

The upheaval brought on by COVID-19 nearly upended this most solemn day. The iconic Tribute in Light was almost forced to remain dark due to safety concerns for the workers. Gov. Andrew Cuomo stepped in to have the Department of Health assist in the safe construction, and they will again be shining bright tonight from dusk til dawn.

As for today's ceremony, some will be familiar. Alice Greenwald, president of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, told CBS2's John Dias many of the traditional elements remain.

"We will have six moments of silence with the bell ringing to indicate the moment of silence," Greenwald said.

Those moments of silence mark the terrible timeline of the attacks. At 8:46 a.m., when hijackers crashed American Airlines Flight 11 into the north tower of the World Trade Center.

At 9:03 a.m., United Flight 175 hit the south tower. It was then we knew this was terror landing on our shores.

At 9:37 a.m., American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon. At 9:59 a.m., the south tower collapsed.

At 10:03 a.m., the brave passengers of the hijacked United Flight 93 decided to take matters into their own hands, fighting back. The plane went down in a field outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Then at 10:28 a.m., one more agonizing moment played out - the collapse of the north tower.

WATCH: NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea Pays Tribute To Those Lost On 9/11 

In deference to social distancing and keeping crowds dispersed throughout the site, this year's annual reading of the names will have a very different look and feel to it.

"We're taking the recordings of the family members speaking the names of the victims of 9/11, and that recording will be alphabetical. It will be played throughout the memorial," Greenwald said. "People can be by the names of their loved ones, be in a place that's comfortable with them and their families."

Not that comfort is easy to find, even as time passes.The FDNY lost 343 members, the NYPD lost 23 police officers, and 37 members of the Port Authority Police died. A toll still so hard to take.

It's been almost two decades. New York has rebuilt and rebounded -- a city of resilience that is needed this year perhaps more than ever as it battles a new enemy. But New York is a city that always comes back -- on the backs of our heroes that we forever mourn.

This year's presentation has sparked some controversy, and in fact, a live reading of the names will be held about a block away at the corner of Church and Liberty streets.

"It would be shame on us if we couldn't figure out a way to read these names in a safe way," said Frank Siller of the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation.

MORE: In-Person Reading Of The Names Goes Forward With Help From Stephen Siller Tunnel To Towers Foundation

That's what Siller and the foundation say they are doing. Siller says all safety protocols will be observed and podiums will be cleaned between readers.

"We're not in competition with anybody. We just want to read the names and do it in a dignified way... We're going to make sure that there's one person at each podium. It's not hard to do," he said.

Siller said they will suggest people move out of the immediate area after they hear their loved one's name to make room for others, and adds family members he's spoken to are grateful for the live reading.

"We want to hear how families are moving on and living on and carrying on their loved one's names in a positive and lasting way. And I think that these families deserve the right to be able to say it, like I said again, out loud in person on this day every year," he said.

Vice President Mike Pence is expected at the ceremony hosted by Tunnel to Towers, and presidential candidate Joe Biden and his wife will be at the ceremony at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.

The memorial site will be open only to family members until about 3 p.m., and then it will open to the public until midnight.

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