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Remembering 9/11: Live Reading Of Names Returns To Lower Manhattan Ceremony Honoring Victims Of Terror Attacks 20 Years Ago

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- On this anniversary of 9/11, two decades later, families again went to that sacred ground in Lower Manhattan to remember the 2,753 people who died in the attack on the World Trade Center.

During the ceremony in Lower Manhattan, the names of the thousands of lives lost in the terror attacks were read out loud, a tradition that was put on pause last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

New York City Commemorates 20th Anniversary Of 9/11 Terror Attacks
(L-R) Former President Bill Clinton, former President Barack Obama, former First Lady Michelle Obama, President Joe Biden, First Lady Jill Biden and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg attend the annual 9/11 Commemoration Ceremony at the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum on September 11, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Six moments of silence signified when the planes struck and when the towers fell.

Complete Coverage9/11 Twenty Years Later

President Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden attended, along with the Clintons and the Obamas, but the focus was rightly on the 9/11 family members and their wrenching loss, loved ones taken by terror.

It was a ceremony unlike any in the past. All were solemn and emotional, but marking 20 years since the attack resonated deeply.

The speakers were given extra time to share an anecdote or memory of their loved ones.

"Your loss had left us all with a heartache that nothing will ever heal," said Rose Aversano, who lost her father in the attack.

"I feel it's important for people to hear their loved ones' names," said Geralyn McHugh, who lost a family member in the attacks.

"Keeps their memories alive?" CBS2's Tony Aiello asked.

"Absolutely. And I think it heals. Well, it helps heal," McHugh said.

Photos: 9/11 Twenty Years Later

Nearly 15% of the names represent first responders. Port Authority Police lost 37 officers. NYPD lost 23 members. FDNY lost 343 members, including Michael Kiefer.

Kiefer was just 25 when he died trying to save others in the South Tower.

His sister said the two decade anniversary means little when the loss will be felt for a lifetime.

"Twenty years, one year, ten years, it's all still as raw as that day. We never recovered my brother. So, the pain is still raw," said Kerri Kiefer-Viverito.

FDNY Battalion Chief John Joseph Fanning was also among those killed. He never met the granddaughter who read his name on Saturday.

"My hero I never got to meet. I know so much about you because you are still talked about every single day," Kyla Fanning said.

More than 7,300 days have passed since the attacks.

"Twenty years. It seems like a lifetime but yet yesterday. It doesn't get any easier," said Yvonne Salerno, who lost a family member.

The anniversary brought added elements to the ceremony, including musical interludes.

New York City Commemorates 20th Anniversary Of 9/11 Terror Attacks
Bruce Springsteen performs at the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum ceremony commemorating the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Ed Jones-Pool/Getty Images)

One of the most poignant moments came when music legend Bruce Springsteen performed "I'll See You In My Dreams."

Family members said the mood on the plaza was, of course, somber, but at the same time, comforting. They say it's comforting to be around others who understand the distinctive pain of losing a loved one on 9/11.

"They cry on your shoulder. They mention their loved one. One minute we're crying, and the next minute, we're laughing because we start talking about their lives," said Edwin Morales.

"Kind of like everybody's sort of, kind of reliving the experience, reminiscing together. It's, you don't even really have to talk to everybody to really understand how everybody's feeling," Peter Arboleda said.

The ceremony ends with the playing of Taps, and for many, a long moment at one of the reflecting pools.

The 20-year mark of a loss that will be felt for a lifetime.

Watch Tony Aiello's report -- 

A short distance from the reflecting pools where the Twin Towers once stood, twin beams shot up into the clear sky Saturday night, a poignant reminder of our city's darkest hours.

The feeling there was one of deep sorrow.

Agnes Mieczkowska was overcome with overwhelming grief as she remembered the terror that reverberated across the city.

"It just makes me sad every time, I'm sorry, every time I come here," she told CBS2's Kiran Dhillon.

She lost a friend that day. He was working in one of the towers when it was collapsed.

"He left a wife and a daughter, and it just makes me... It's just very painful," Mieczkowska said. "All those people who lost their lives and all the families who lost somebody and that person will never sit with them at the table. There's so many remains that they couldn't even find and they can't really give a lot of families the closure."

Leonardo Quinones was working in New Jersey and watched one of the planes hit the South Tower.

"We saw a ball of fire explode ... It was devastating. Eell actually, it was anger. I was angry. When I heard about it, I was totally angry," he said.

He had three friends who died in the attacks.

Quinones' trauma has been so heavy, Saturday night was the first time in 20 years he gathered the courage to visit Ground Zero.

"I feel like I have closure now. I feel a little more content. I'll be alright. I'll survive mentally and emotionally," he said.

That feeling of hope is echoed by many.

Several women visiting the memorial were part of a group of 20 volunteers who distributed food and supplies to first responders for four months.

They say on this anniversary, along with the pain, they also feel gratitude.

"A lot of memories come up. I think I feel happy that we've lasted 20 years without another incident like this," Catherine Young said.

Watch: 9/11 Tributes Held Across New York City --

There were other tributes across New York throughout the day.

Church leaders rang the Bell of Hope outside St. Paul's Chapel in Lower Manhattan at 8:46 a.m., marking the exact moment the first place crashed into the North Tower.

It rang in a pattern of four sets of five rings, the traditional firefighters' salute to the fallen.

The NYPD tweeted photos from a vigil in Brooklyn, saying, "When the community comes together to hold a solemn vigil in remembrance of those we lost on 9/11, you get an amazing display of strength and unity."

Lincoln Center was bathed in blue on Saturday, along with other buildings throughout the city, to honor those killed in the attacks.

Organizers say the lights are also a celebration of the unbreakable spirit of New York.

The Tribute in Light, which echoes the shape of the Twin Towers, will remain illuminated until Sunday. It can be seen from 60 miles away.

Watch The 9/11 Memorial Ceremony

Part 1

Part 2

Watch "9/11: Through Their Eyes"

Twenty years after the September 11 attacks, our CBS2 colleagues are opening up, some for the first time, about the challenges of covering that unforgettable day. Learn about the amazing people they met, the fears they felt and the lessons they learned.

"Through Their Eyes" is a compilation of candid and emotional interviews that offer a glimpse of what you didn't see and how the attacks shaped our colleagues personally and professionally.

CBS2's Tony Aiello and Kiran Dhillon contributed to this report. Editor's note: This story was first published Sept. 11.

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