9/11 memorial ceremony won't have families reading victims' names due to coronavirus

The solemn, televised hourslong practice will be replaced by a recording from the museum’s In Memoriam exhibition.
A worker disinfects the area of one of the reflecting pools as people visit the 9/11 Memorial Plaza on July 4, 2020, in New York.
A worker disinfects the area of one of the reflecting pools as people visit the 9/11 Memorial Plaza on July 4, 2020, in New York.Eduardo Munoz Alvarez / AP file

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By Elisha Fieldstadt

The names of the nearly 3,000 victims of 9/11 will not be read by families at this year's ceremony at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York "out of an abundance of caution" during the coronavirus pandemic, organizers said.

The solemn, televised hourslong practice, which has evolved over the years and now jarringly features teenagers reading the names of parents they never met, will be replaced by a recording of a reading of the names from the museum’s In Memoriam exhibition.

An email to victims' families from museum staff said other plans for the ceremony, on the 19th anniversary of the attacks, were still underway. "Our hope is to gather on the Memorial plaza, adhering to state and federal guidelines as they relate to social distancing and public gatherings," the email said.

Families will, as in previous years, have exclusive access to the museum on Sept. 11, provided it has reopened. The outside memorial and the museum closed in mid-March, and only the memorial has reopened this month.

"Around the world, people are responding to the COVID-19 crisis with compassion, generosity, and a sense of community, much like they did in the aftermath of 9/11," National September 11 Memorial & Museum President and CEO Alice M. Greenwald said in the email to families. "These expressions of connection and empathy give us a sense of hope, even in the face of shared grief."