Local 9/11 family member reacts to changes to 2020 memorial service


BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — Family members of 9/11 victims will not be reading out the names of their loved ones this year, as the COVID-19 pandemic is changing the way the annual memorial in New York City has been held for 18 years.

For many, it’s a somber change, although they are glad to see the memorial happen at all.

A local 9/11 family member, Don Arias, said on Friday that he understands the reason for the change, but hopes that those who were lost aren’t forgotten as COVID-19 changes the way they are remembered.

One of those victims was his brother, Adam Arias.

“In my eyes, he died a hero but I would much rather he still be around,” Arias said.

For him, September 11th, 2001, will always be remembered as one of the worst days of his life.

“When I saw on the TV in the corner of my office, the north tower smoking, my thoughts immediately were with my younger brother who was in the south tower,” Arias said.

Adam Arias worked in the south tower. He was 37 years old, three-years married. Don recalls seeing what was happening and calling his brother, telling him to get out quickly.

“We had what I found out later on was going to be our last conversation,” Arias said.

He said the south tower collapsed as his brother tried to help others escape.

To the rest of the country, he’s just one of thousands we remember each year. To people like Arias, he will always be much more.

“If you have a brother or sister that you confide in, you know how close that relationship is,” Arias said. “I miss that the most.”

He said the reading of names each year is important, so no one ever forgets what happened that day.

“People forget about people,” he said. “The further we get away from 9/11, the less we remember it.”

This year, the names will be read through a recording that is kept at the 9/11 memorial museum due to COVID-19. There will still be moments of silence to remember those who were lost.

Arias said he thinks it’s an understandable change, but he hopes the traditions that keep his brother’s memory alive aren’t forgotten when the pandemic is over. More so, he hopes Americans remember the days that followed the tragic attacks.

“This country came together, how you saw American flags everywhere,” he said. “The best of people came out in the worst of times.”

Arias said he is glad to hear that the 9/11 memorial and museum at Ground Zero will be open for victims’ family members on September 11th, as long as they are able to adhere to CDC guidelines. He said he’s very proud of the way the 9/11 family foundation and museum are handling the difficult situation.

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