For 20 years now, New Yorkers have woken up to this day – to relive, to remember.
Some find themselves forced to, others want to.
In a church yard – just yards from Ground Zero – a group gathered as a bell rang out. Five strikes, repeated four times, the traditional firefighters’ salute to the fallen.
The Bell of Hope was gift from the City of London to New York City 20 years ago.
A block south from where the towers once stood is an institution that survived as the buildings fell.
O’Hara’s Pub is now a focal point for survivors and relatives. They have gathered here every year over the past two decades. Inside, the walls are covered with the badges of the first responders. Without their bravery, so many more would have died.
Among those there, I chatted to firefighter Richie Napolitano.
“My bravery was nothing compared to the 343 guys that walked into a building that day knowing they were going to die. And really that’s what happened. They knew they were going to die that day,” he told me.
Richie lost five of his close friends that day. Their names are tattooed on his arm.
Nearby, I met Sean Birch. He lost his uncle.
“It’s definitely emotional, every year is tough but 20 years – it seems like it was yesterday, you know it’s really tough. Every year it’s like you relive it over again, so it’s very tough but it’s always important to remember, never forget, they didn’t lose their lives for no reason,” he said.
I watched the crowds gather and reminisce.
In the end, it comes down to these moments – sharing memories, remembering, never forgetting. But understanding and coming to terms with it? Knowing that it could never happen again? That’s harder.
In corners across Manhattan, I found small gatherings.
A few blocks away from Ground Zero, the Queen Elizabeth Memorial Garden was the focus for the British and Commonwealth losses. On September 11, 67 British people died.
Representing Queen and government was the ambassador to the UK, Dame Karen Pierce.
“It’s a good moment to come together, but I think also people draw a lot of strength from the resilience that New York City and it’s people showed immediately after 9/11 in rebuilding, and I think if I had to pick one thing to take away from today it would be that,” she told Sky News.
In this city which never sleeps, there’s resilience but always grief.