13 ways New Yorkers can commemorate the 20th anniversary of 9/11

September 1, 2021

Next Saturday marks the 20th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks. Whether New Yorkers were here two decades ago or not, it will be a somber day across the city and across the world. For those looking for ways to honor the anniversary, we have put together a preliminary list of commemorations and events, whether you prefer to mark the date from home or in a group of your fellow New Yorkers. The list includes the annual Tribute in Light and reading of the names, as well as indoor and outdoor concerts, documentary film screenings, and more.

20th Anniversary Commemoration
Organized by the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, the annual commemoration ceremony will focus on the reading of the names of those killed in the 9/11 attacks and in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing by family members of the victims. Throughout the ceremony, six moments of silence will be observed, acknowledging when each of the World Trade Center towers was struck and fell and the times corresponding to the attack on the Pentagon and the crash of Flight 93. The in-person ceremony is open only to family members, but it will be broadcast live on ABC’s Good Morning America.

Tribute in Light
The first Tribute in Light display was projected into the sky six months after September 11, 2001, developed by the Municipal Art Society and Creative Time, who brought together six artists and designers and a lighting consultant. Since then, it has been projected every September 11 from dusk to dawn, managed by the National September 11 Memorial & Museum since 2012. The projection takes place from the roof of the Battery Parking Garage, just south of the 9/11 Memorial, from two 48-foot squares, comprised of 88, 7,000-watt xenon lightbulbs. The twin beams shine up to four miles into the sky, “echoing the shape and orientation of the Twin Towers,” according to the Museum, and can be seen from a 60-mile radius around lower Manhattan.

In partnership with NYC & Company, this year again Tribute in Light will include buildings throughout the city lighting up their facades and rooftops in sky blue. Some of the nearly 40 buildings participating this year include the Empire State Building, One World Trade Center, 7 WTC, Lincoln Center Plaza, Goethals Bridge, Bayonne Bridge, Pier 17, The Oculus, and City Hall.

Empty Sky Memorial Remembrance Ceremony
On Liberty State Park, the Empty Sky Memorial is New Jersey’s official September 11 memorial to the state’s victims. It’s made up of two 30-foot-high rectangular towers that stretch 208 feet 10 inches, the exact width of the World Trade Center towers. Names of the 746 NJ victims are etched in the stainless steel slabs, which are oriented to create a view of the Twin Towers site. On September 11 at 2pm, a remembrance ceremony will be held at the site. The NJ 9/11 Memorial Foundation is also hosting the Empty Sky Memorial USATF 5K Run/Walk on Liberty State Park on Sunday, September 12.

The Daffodil Project
Led by nonprofit New Yorkers for Parks, the Daffodil Project began in the spring after 9/11 when Dutch bulb supplier Hans van Waardenburg sent one million daffodil bulbs as a gift. The tradition has continued each year, with volunteers planting bulbs in public spaces across the five boroughs. This year, the organization will hand out more than one million daffodil bulbs, twice the amount from last year (2021 will also memorialize those lost from COVID). There are bulb pick-up locations throughout the city, and you can register to volunteer with the Daffodil Project here. *At the time of publication, registration was for a waitlist only. 

NYC Still Rising After 20 Years: A Comedy Celebration
Jon Stewart and Pete Davidson have organized a special benefit comedy show at Madison Square Garden taking place on September 12 at 7pm. Other big-name comedians who will perform include Dave Chapelle, Amy Schumer, Jimmy Fallon, Michael Che, and Wanda Sykes, among others. All proceeds will benefit 9/11 charities. You can purchase tickets here but do note that proof of vaccination is required.

Table of Silence Project 9/11
Lincoln Center’s annual 9/11 dance tribute returns for a second year with a livestreamed performance. Table of Silence Project 9/11 is a multi-cultural performance calling for peace and global unity that was conceived and choreographed in 2011 by Jacqulyn Buglisi, Artistic Director of Buglisi Dance Theatre. Typically, 150 dancers take over Josie Roberston Plaza, but last year, due to COVID, the reimagined Table of Silence Prologue ritual was performed by 32 dancers encircling Lincoln Center’s Revson Fountain. There will also be performers on violin, spoken word, and bells. According to Lincoln Center, this year, “the original 10-foot-long silk costumes in vibrant reds, golds, and greens will be transformed by costume designer Elena Comendador into tones of alchemic white and silver, to recall the ashes, purity, and sacredness of the lost souls remembered on this anniversary.”

Verdi’s Requiem: The Met Remembers 9/11
On September 11 at 7:45pm, the Metropolitan Opera will present Verdi’s Requiem as its first indoor performance since Covid began. The performance will be transmitted live as part of Great Performances on PBS, with ballet star Misty Copeland hosting the program from nearby the site of the 9/11 Museum. Live audio from the performance will also be broadcast directly outside the Met in Lincoln Center Plaza. *At the time of publication, in-person tickets were sold out. 

Musicians For Harmony: 20th Anniversary “Concert for Peace”
Musicians For Harmony was founded in 2001 in the wake of 9/11 by the Kaufman Music Center with a mission to pursue peace through music. This year’s online concert will take place in person at Merkin Concert Hall, as well as streamed live. It will aim to “elevate musical voices in the service of peace, health and equity to commemorate the victims of 9/11, Covid-19 and social injustice” and will feature performances by the Juilliard String Quartet, Syrian clarinetist Kinan Azmeh, ETHEL and Musique Sans Frontières.

Memory Ground at The Green-Wood Cemetery
Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery is hosting three outdoor concerts commemorating the 20th anniversary of 9/11. Taking place at 12pm, 1pm, and 2pm, the 45-minute events were curated by composer Buck McDaniel and include the premiere of a new work, Memory Ground, a performance that invites attendees to gather together in remembrance of those lost. Seating is first-come-first-served atop Battle Hill, which offers sweeping views of the lower Manhattan skyline.

Remembrance, Reflection, Resilience: A 9/11 Tribute Concert
The Museum of Jewish Heritage and the Knickerbocker Chamber Orchestra are presenting a special concert to mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11. Interspersed with readings of remembrance and reflection, the concert will feature Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings,” the world premiere of Gary S. Fagin’s “9/11 In Memoriam,” Edward Kennedy (Duke) Ellington’s “Come Sunday” featuring the KCO’s Orlando Wells on violin, and other music of uplift and inspiration. The event is taking place on September 11 at 8pm both in-person in the Museum’s Edmond J. Safra Hall and virtually; both are free.

Twenty Years Later: Remembering 9/11 Through Documentary Film
The Museum of the City of New York will screen two recent short documentary films about the events and aftermath of September 11, taking place on the day at 1pm. Chief is a 25-minute documentary about the life of FDNY First Deputy Fire Commissioner William M. Feehan, the highest-ranking and oldest FDNY member lost during 9/11. In the Shadow of the Towers: Stuyvesant High on 9/11 is an HBO documentary that revisits the day and aftermath of September 11 through conversations with eight Stuyvesant alumni, as the public high school was just blocks from the World Trade Center.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden
On September 11, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden is offering complimentary admission (an advanced reservation is required) all day to serve as a place of peace and reflection. The Garden actually has two special collections in remembrance of 9/11–Cherry Esplanade are allées of scarlet oak trees planted in remembrance of the events of that day and those who lost their lives and the Tree Peony Collection, which blooms in the spring and was a gift in 2002 by the Japanese town of Yatsuka-Cho in Shimane Prefecture to “bring peace of mind to the people of the United States.”

Onyx Collective: Holy Ground Land of Two Towers
At 7pm on September 11, Abrons Arts Center is hosting a performance by jazz ensemble Onyx Collective to commemorate the city two decades later through a live concert of sonic moods and reflections that features a host of New York City-based guest artists.

Lead image, clockwise from top left: Tribute in Light photo by David Z from Pixabay; Empty Sky Memorial photo by Sandra Grünewald on Unsplash; 9/11 Memorial photo by Aaron Lee on Unsplash; Table of Silence Project 9/11 photo courtesy of Lincoln Center

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