The pandemic in New York brought many inequalities to light and created many divisions, and this morning’s commemoration of 9/11 was no exception. The usual ceremony was divided into two due to safety concerns: one at the Sept. 11 memorial plaza, and the other at the corner of Church and Liberty Streets, near Zuccotti Park.

In prior years, victims’ relatives would read their names at the memorial plaza, but leaders of the National Sept. 11 Memorial & Museum decided to have a pre-recorded reading of victims’ names with no stage in front of those who were there to mourn. 

However, The Stephen Stiller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, another 9/11-related organization, arranged a separate ceremony at the same time to allow names to be read aloud. 

For the past 18 years thousands would gather around Ground Zero, but this year the crowd was much smaller. Although the foundation’s event was closed to the public, the majority of people gathered at the corner near the World Trade Center, including Vice President Mike Pence and presidential candidate Joe Biden. Security forces around the event prevented onlookers from getting a glimpse of them. 

Among the spectators were several non-profit motorcycle clubs, like America’s 911 Foundation, Inc. This non-profit organizes a motorcycle ride in remembrance of first responders who served that tragic day. This year, around 45 members attended. 

“I just wish things were different this year, but as long as we are doing something for those who died that day, I guess it’s alright,” said Alison Conway, secretary and executive board member of the foundation. 

Mark Miller, a retired U.S. Army soldier, was also part of the energetic crowd of bikers. In 2001, he was in New Jersey when the attacks took place. “I’m about to cry just remembering that day,” he said. “I’ll never get over it, ever. Because of 9/11, I’ve been deployed to three different countries.” 

Although the pandemic has been a mass trauma event, to Miller there is no parallel with the terror attacks. “Covid’s got nothing on 9/11. New York will recover from it, and I think after the [presidential] election it will disappear,” he said. 

The 9/11 Memorial Museum will open to the general public the day after the commemoration, on Sept. 12.