LOWER MANHATTAN — Tears flowed and bagpipes sounded Thursday morning as hundreds of people gathered in Lower Manhattan to mark the 13th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
Family members of the nearly 3,000 victims quietly filed into the World Trade Center site to attend a somber ceremony at the 9/11 Memorial plaza.
Among the grieving relatives clutching photos of their loved ones and greeting each other with embraces was the family of Danielle Kousoulis, a 29-year-old bond trader killed on the 104th floor of the North Tower.
"I thought I'd grow old with her," said Eleni Kousoulis, 43, Danielle's sister, fighting back tears. "Even 13 years later, it's not any easier."
The Kousoulis family, of New Jersey, said they come each year to pay tribute to Danielle.
"We never found any remains," said Danielle's mother, Zoe Kousoulis, who wore a necklace with a picture of Danielle inside a heart pendant. "To us, this is her final resting place."
The name reading was 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.
Kayla Grady read the name of her dad, Christopher Michael Grady.
"I love and miss you so much," she said. "You will forever be in our hearts."
Brittany Angrisani arrived with about a dozen relatives to remember her aunt and uncle, Sylvia Sanpio Resta and John Resta, who worked together on the 92nd floor of the North Tower.
"They had just got married, and my aunt was pregnant with their first child when they were killed," Angrisani said. "I was 14 years old when they died, but sometimes it still doesn't feel real, like I still expect them to come over for dinner."
Walter Matuza, 23, comes to the memorial each year with family to honor his dad, who shared his name and was a telecom analyst at the World Trade Center.
"I don't want anyone to ever forget about this day, so we come here together, and remember my father, pay tribute to all that was lost," said Matuza, of Staten Island. He is now a senior at Seton Hall University and has struggled with impaired vision since his father's death.
"It's always hard, but somehow you try to move on in a way, try to remember that living my life to the fullest is the best way to honor my dad," Matuza said. "I was 10 when he died, and I think about him all the time, think about how now, as an adult, it would be nice, even just once, to have a beer with him."
The ceremony, attended by Mayor Bill de Blasio, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, was webcast on the 9/11 Memorial's website.
Events honoring Sept. 11 are being held throughout the day for World Trade Center survivors and those who wish to take a quiet moment of reflection or prayer. In the evening, from 6 p.m. to midnight, the 9/11 Memorial plaza will be open to the public, offering visitors a chance to see the Tribute in Light beams and the recent construction progress on the new towers at the site.