Ceremonies marking 9/11 look much different due to pandemic

By LAUREN LANTRY, ABC News

(NEW YORK) — Nineteen years ago Friday, nearly 3,000 American lives were lost when planes were hijacked and flown into the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon just outside Washington, D.C., and into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

But as the U.S. commemorates that day of infamy, it is simultaneously grappling with the coronavirus.

About 191,000 lives have been lost in the United States so far — some 60 times more than on 9/11.

Due to the pandemic, ceremonies that normally take place to commemorate this tragic day are starkly different this year.

In New York City, families of the victims of 9/11 and survivors have still been invited to the site of where their loved ones died, but they have been required to wear masks.

In prior years, names of those who died have been read aloud by family members and friends in the plaza. But this year, according to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, the reading of those names has been pre-recorded to be played out on speakers.

Members of the general public have been discouraged to attend and pay tribute.

The Pentagon is holding a ceremony at which Secretary of Defense Marker Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley will both give remarks. But the audience will consist solely of Defense Department senior staff and officials. Family members of those who lost their lives will be allowed to visit later in the day but will not be in the audience for the ceremony.

On Capitol Hill, House members, wearing masks, gathered for a moment of silence on the East Front Steps of the U.S. Capitol at 8:46 a.m. and then sang a verse of “God Bless America” as they memorably did the evening of the attacks.

Both former Vice President and Democratic nominee Joe Biden and President Donald Trump were attending private ceremonies at Shanksville.

As of Sept 1., 2020, 1,642 of the 2,753 victims of the attack on the World Trade Center have been positively identified, according to the NYC Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. Nineteen years since the attacks, a total of 1,111 victims have not been positively identified.

More than 1,400 Sept. 11 survivors and responders have contracted the coronavirus so far, according to data from the World Trade Center Health Program.

Due to their compromised immune systems from surviving Sept. 11, especially their ailing respiratory symptoms, many have fallen ill. As of Aug. 21, at least 191 have been hospitalized and 44 have died.

John Feal, a former construction worker who has suffered long-term health damage from working at Ground Zero after 9/11, told ABC News that he remembers the nation’s unity after the attacks.

“If we were to bottle Sept. 12 and we learned to live like everyone did that day, the pandemic would go away a lot faster,” Feal said.

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