While the reading of the victims took place at Ground Zero in downtown Manhattan, there were smaller memorial services all across city on 9/11 as New Yorkers remembered the attacks that claimed 2,753 victims at the World Trade Center 22 years ago.
Between the attack on the Pentagon, where 184 died that fateful day, and the plane that crashed in a field in Pennsylvania that killed 40 more when passengers overpowered the hijackers, there were 2,977 victims that day. But the list of workers and first responders who have fallen ill and died from 9/11 related illnesses in the years since continues to mount.
“On this day, we remember the 343 firefighters we lost that day,” said John J. Hodgens, FDNY chief of department at a ceremony at the NYC Fire Museum on Spring St. on 9/11. “On this day, we remember the people we continue to lose.” There were 71 law enforcement officials including 23 members of the NYPD. Sgt. Moira Smith from the 13th Pct in Gramercy Park was the only woman NYPD officer killed that day. A service was held outside her 13th Pct stationhouse on E. 20th to mark her passing.
The deaths were indiscriminate: There were 658 deaths at the Wall Street firm of Cantor Fitzgerald that day. There were also at least 73 restaurant workers who labored in Windows on the World on the 106th and 107th floors of the North Tower.
There are now 341 firefighters and 241 NYPD officers who have perished from 9/11 related diseases in the years since. And the death toll is relentless. Forty more firefighters names were added only last week to the list of victims who perished in the years since from 9/11 related diseases. The remains of two more victims from the World Trade Center were recently identified, but the remains of 40 percent of the victims have still not been identified. The fire on 9/11 burned for 99 days until Dec. 9 and many police, firefighters and construction workers labored on the pile at Ground Zero at that time, breathing what turned out to be toxic fumes.
“Today marks the darkest day in FDNY history,” said Hodgens, who was on duty that morning with Ladder Company 157 based in Brooklyn when the first plane hit. But he also noted it marked one of the largest evacuations of civilians ever from the towers that day. Initially it was feared the death toll might reach into the tens of thousands.
“There will be ceremonies at firehouses and police stations and memorials all across the city,” Hodgens noted.
“It never gets an easier,” said Hodgens, after listening to firefighter Michael Green-Gregg sing the national anthem while retired firefighter Thomas Sullivan and active firefighter Lenin Deliz placed the memorial wreath at the Fire Museum.
The museum has a memorial of photos of all the 343 victims. It also contains the turnout jacket worn by victim #1, the FDNY chaplain Father Mychal Judge. He was seen praying in the lobby of the North Tower in his white helmet and black turnout jacket when the South Tower collapsed sending an avalanche of debris crashing into the North Tower. His body was famously carried from the lobby by grief stricken emergency workers in a photo seen round the world.
A Waterford crystal etching of the emergency workers who were captured in that iconic photo is on display at Engine 1, Ladder 24 on W. 31st, not far from St. Francis Church where Father Judge was based.
The firehouse with the single biggest loss that day was on Eighth Ave. where Engine 54 and Ladder 4 were housed. Because it also housed Battalion 9 command, 15 firefighters answered the bell that day and all 15 perished. Many family members have been meeting annually at the firehouse and the park across the street in the years since. Kids of the fallen are now grown men and women themselves.
The FDNY lost 91 vehicles that day. One of the crushed trucks from Ladder 3 on 13th Street between Third and Fourth Ave. was dug from the rubble and is on display at the 9/11 Memorial Museum at Ground Zero. Captain Patrick Brown led a dozen men to the 40th floor of the North Tower on that fateful day. Brown, a resident of Stuyvesant Town, has a portion of the East River esplanade not far from Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village named in his honor.
Hodgens said each year around mid-August, thoughts start turning to 9/11, “to people we lost and are still losing...On this day, we will never forget,” he said.