LOWER MANHATTAN — On a morning as cool and as clear as the day of the attacks 11 years ago, hundreds of people gathered in Lower Manhattan Tuesday to mark the 11th anniversary of 9/11.
Family members of the nearly 3,000 victims returned to Ground Zero for a somber ceremony on the 9/11 Memorial Plaza, which included a reading of the names of the dead, broken by moments of silence at the times the planes hit each tower and when the towers collapsed, as well as when the Pentagon was attacked and Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania.
Relatives of 9/11 victims streamed into the 9/11 Memorial early Tuesday morning, clutching photos of their loved ones and greeting each other with embraces.
The crowd appeared smaller than in years past, which some family members said was disappointing.
"I feel like no one's here," said Michelle Pizzo, 37, a Staten Island resident whose husband Jason Defazio, 29, worked for Cantor Fitzgerald on the 104th floor of the North Tower and was killed in the attack. "It's upsetting not as many people are coming. People are not taking time out to remember."
Pizzo was also disturbed that her 2-year-old daughter's first day of preschool was scheduled for Tuesday morning, conflicting with the anniversary ceremony.
Jane Pollicino, 68, a Nassau County resident whose husband Steve Pollicino, 48, worked for Cantor Fitzgerald and was killed on 9/11, said she felt more relaxed on this anniversary, compared to the intensely anticipated 10th anniversary last year.
"This feels a lot different," Jane Pollicino said. "You can celebrate [the victims' lives] in a calmer way."
During past anniversary ceremonies, politicians including President Barack Obama and Mayor Michael Bloomberg read comforting literary selections, but this year no politicians spoke — a change some relatives supported.
"At least the focus is on the family members," said Edwin Morales, 51, a Queens resident whose firefighter cousin Ruben Correa, 44, was killed in the collapse.
Throughout the day Tuesday, local organizations offered events for Downtown residents, World Trade Center survivors and those who wanted to take a quiet moment of reflection or prayer.
Security was tight around the World Trade Center, with many street closures and parking restrictions.
On the eve of the anniversary, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that they had resolved a longstanding dispute over the 9/11 Memorial Museum, which will allow construction of the museum to resume this fall.
The underground museum was once supposed to open on the 11th anniversary, but now will be delayed until at least next year.
Also Monday night, the federal government announced plans to cover cancer treatment for the many 9/11 first responders who have gotten sick in the past 11 years.
The next morning, Bryan Ellicott, 23, a Lower East Side resident, stood outside St. Paul's Chapel across from the World Trade Center, writing a letter to his father, who raced to the World Trade Center to help pull people from the rubble on 9/11 and died of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2007.
"People still die, people are still getting sick — and those are the people who are forgotten," said Ellicott, who taped two bouquets of roses, one red and one white, to the fence outside St. Paul's.
"People say they won't forget," Ellicott continued, "but you have because you won't recognize that the rest of us are still suffering, and that this is now just hitting home."
Amid the many anniversary events on Tuesday, thousands of Downtown residents and workers went about their regular business, some pausing near the World Trade Center to reflect on the past 11 years.
Mario Calandruccio, 45, a father of two who lives in The Bronx, recalled evacuating his 90 Church St. office on the morning of 9/11 and seeing people holding hands as they leapt from the flaming towers.
"If I had a choice, I wouldn't work here," said Calandruccio, whose job with the New York City Housing Authority returned to the repaired Church Street building several years after 9/11. "I think about it every day."
At Tuesday morning's anniversary ceremony, some 9/11 family members said their grief was healing with time, but others said the pain still felt fresh.
"I could be here 50 years from now and it would still hurt me just as much," said Joe Torres, 51, a fire captain in Elizabeth, N.J., whose sister-in-law Krystine Bordenabe was eight months pregnant when she died in the collapse of the South Tower.
"Every day it affects me," he said.
With reporting by Chelsia Rose Marcius.