For those of us who were living, 20 years ago, in the Manhattan neighborhood now called Ground Zero, 9/11/21 was a very special day. It was a day of remembrance, renewal, and rebirth. Many of our fellow denizens fled after the attacks, but two decades later, some of us Financial District and TriBeCa people are still living near the site where the Twin Towers used to stand.

On 9/11/21, I woke up for a morning jog, along an urban path that took me through Broad Street to Pearl Street and across Battery Park all the way to Hudson River Park, pretty much the same route I was accustomed to on most mornings 20 years ago, when I was still relatively new to New York City. I was a guy from Togo who was just beginning to call the Big Apple his home.

Although 20 years feels like a lifetime ago, the pain, courage and grief we saw on the streets (and in the towers) that morning when we discovered the first airplane-shaped hole in the side of the building will remain with us forever. Towards the end of my run, I tried to get close to the National September 11 Memorial Museum, but the size of the crowds gathered all over the Ground Zero site meant that all I could do was peek at the Memorial from afar.

I chose to speak with some of the people who were there, native New Yorkers, tourists, relatives of victims, policemen, firefighters, government officials, and even one woman I’ve been seeing on my morning run for years but never interacted with. I discovered that some people had traveled across the world to be part of the ceremony, and that others were just there because they wanted to understand the meaning of “Never Forget”.

By the time night fell, I was on a ferry, returning to Pier 11, the Wall Street pier, after a few hours spent in Brooklyn. The most gorgeous part of the day was the Tribute in Light, the commemorative public art installation that was first presented six months after 9/11 and then every year thereafter. For us locals, seeing those twin lights from dusk to dawn was the true meaning of “Never Forget”.