9/11 Anniversary: Victims’ Families Gather at Ground Zero

Mourners gathered in grief in Lower Manhattan on Monday, hugging each other and fighting back tears as they remembered their loved ones who died on Sept. 11, 2001.

Attendees of the ceremony commemorating the 22nd anniversary of the worst terrorist attack on American soil sat on folding chairs and leaned against trees as flute music filled the air and relatives of those who died read their names aloud — a ritual that has remained virtually unchanged for more than two decades.

Some wore T-shirts emblazoned with photos of their lost loved ones, while others carried posters or framed pictures. Many brought flowers and flags.

The families were joined by a number of notable politicians, including Vice President Kamala Harris; Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York; Gov. Kathy Hochul of New York; Eric Adams, New York City’s mayor; and Bill de Blasio and Michael Bloomberg, Mr. Adams’s two most immediate predecessors. Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, who is running for the Republican presidential nomination, also made a brief appearance.

Mr. Adams, who was a police lieutenant at the time of the attacks, told CBS News in an interview that he had gone to ground zero that day, and was struck by the “eerie stillness.”

“The greatest thing about New York City in America was not what happened on 9/11, but what happened on 9/12,” he said. “We got up, teachers taught, builders built and we continued to show that we were not going to bend or break.”

For Seaver and Sloane Lipshie, sisters whose uncle John J. Tippington II was a firefighter killed in the attacks, Sept. 11 is a day spent either at his fire house or at ground zero.

Seaver Lipshie, now 26, was only four years old the day her uncle died, and her older sister Sloane, now 28, was just six.

They were both at the ceremony supporting their mother, Maureen Tippington Lipshie, who was one of the family members reading names, including that of her brother. She was a nurse who set up a first aid station at ground zero.

The anniversary is “re-traumatizing” for the family each year, Sloane Lipshie said.

“The rest of the year, of course, you think about it occasionally,” she said. “But it’s hard to watch my mom suffer. It never changed for her.”

Twenty-two years later, the number of emergency workers with the New York Fire Department who died from illnesses related to the attacks almost exceeds the number of firefighters who died in the line of duty that day.

According to the Uniformed Firefighters Association, 341 firefighters, paramedics and other Fire Department employees have died from cancers and other illnesses linked to the toxic dust at ground zero. The number of firefighters who died on Sept. 11 was 343.

Betty Espinoza attended the ceremony with her sister and two friends. They sat by the South Pool and listened to the names being read from a loudspeaker hung on a nearby tree. Ms. Espinoza’s husband, Otto Espinoza, was a police officer who died of cancer in 2015 after being assigned to search and rescue teams at ground zero.

The first few years attending the ceremony were very sad, Ms. Espinoza said, but in recent years she has tried to become more accepting of what happened to her husband.

“I always remember him, I always think about him,” Ms. Espinoza said. “But this is the life I have to live now.”

This year’s anniversary came just three days after Mr. Adams and the city’s chief medical examiner announced the identification of two additional victims of the attacks, the 1,648th and 1,649th people to be identified. They join a list of 60 others who were identified in recent years using advanced DNA testing from remains recovered from ground zero.

“More than 20 years after the disaster, these two new identifications continue to fulfill a solemn pledge,” said Dr. Jason Graham, the medical examiner. “Faced with the largest and most complex forensic investigation in the history of our country, we stand undaunted in our mission to use the latest advances in science to serve this promise.”

The names of the victims, one man and one woman, were withheld because of their families’ wishes. More than 1,100 people — around 40 percent of those who died — remain unidentified, according to the mayor’s office.

There were events across New York City Monday to honor the anniversary, with a number of vigils, speeches and other events scheduled. Volunteers gathered at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum to pack boxes for local food pantries, an example of what has made Sept. 11 the “largest day of service in America.”

Lola Fadulu contributed reporting.

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