BY WES PARNELL AND LARRY MCSHANE
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS/TNS
NEW YORK – The families and friends of 9/11 victims gathered for the 18th year at Ground Zero Wednesday for a memorial service both familiar and freshly heartbreaking.
The observance began as its always does: With a moment of silence and tolling bells at 8:46 a.m., the time when the first hijacked plane slammed into the north tower of the World Trade Center. This year’s memorial came beneath blue skies reminiscent of the sunny September morning when Islamic terrorists took down the two 110-story buildings, killing 2,753 people.
“In many ways this is my cemetery,” said Margie Miller, whose husband Joel died on the 97th floor in his office. “He loved his work here, he loved being here, he died here and this is the place I feel closest to him. So I come here as often as I can but especially today.
“I’ve heard to live with the grief and not in the grief and it’s healing to be here, it’s good to be with this community,” she added. “I am grateful they offer this opportunity to us.”
TEARS, SOLEMN SMILES
The somber reading of the victims’ names began as usual, with family members reading the sad list aloud in the morning silence of the hallowed ground in Lower Manhattan.
The dead were firefighters and cops, financial workers and maintenance workers, employees of the Port Authority — all killed in the worst terrorist attack ever on American soil.
Those reciting the victims’ name inevitably mentioned the children and grandchildren, those born in the last 18 years and those who were just kids on that late summer morning. And each offered a promise to those killed in the collapsed towers: To never forget what happened.
Some family members wept, while others wore solemn smiles — happy to be in attendance, but sad nonetheless. Port Authority Police officers stood to the side of the stage in a line.