NEW YORK — At first blush, Sept. 11, 2013, appeared to be just like any ordinary weekday in Manhattan.
New Yorkers walked their dogs, got their kids ready for school and griped about the high heat and humidity. Down by the World Financial Center, hordes of professionals scurried into towering buildings to begin the day's work.
Despite those outward signs of conventionality, it was far from a regular day.
Those who didn't wake up recalling the horror of the terrorist attacks Sept. 11, 2001, had only to see the date on their iPhone or calendar for a split-second reminder of today's anniversary. It marks the day that hijackers crashed two commercial jets into the iconic twin towers, killing nearly 3,000 people.
Most people can clearly recall the moment they first heard the devastating news. They can still picture the towers smoking, then falling.
Yet as time has passed, how we observe the anniversary has evolved, even diminished. The news coverage is less. The sadness and anxiety aren't as palpable. There is less fear when flying or riding public transportation.
It was inevitable things would change.
Some who lost a spouse have remarried. Toddlers who lost parents are in high school. Adolescents have grown into young professionals.
Kevin Parks, 26, whose father died when the towers crumbled, said he would skip Wednesday morning's formal memorial ceremony and go to his job at a Midtown hedge fund, where he would feel a sense of comfort around his colleagues.
Parks, who was 14 when his father, Bob, died, mentors a younger boy whose father died in the attacks, and he collects donations for Tuesday's Children, which supports kids who lost a parent to terrorism. He says he doesn't want to ever put forth a "woe is me" attitude. Time and maturity have helped him understand that life can be bearable, even enjoyable, after great sorrow.
At a Tuesday's Children fundraiser Tuesday night, it was clear how much things have changed in the years since the attacks.
Organizers spoke of the lives lost on Sept. 11 and of how they help those who lost a parent with support groups and other activities, but the mood was jovial. There was loud live music. Comedian Susie Essman poked fun at those in attendance.
It was a look at how some of the Sept. 11 wounds have begun to mend.
A few blocks from that gathering, at a memorial on the side of Firehouse Engine 10, Ladder 10 near Ground Zero, there was a different feel: one of quiet, somber tribute.
At 11 p.m. Tuesday, a dozen people stood in front of a long bronze wall depicting fire trucks, the smoking twin towers and firefighters responding to the attack. Two women approached the 6-foot-high memorial and rubbed their hands over the etched firefighter faces. One man, who had just read the names of the deceased at the bottom, stood and made the sign of the cross as he walked away.
Wednesday morning, across the street from that firehouse, the raw hurt was even more apparent.
At the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, friends and family of those who perished gathered for the annual reading of the names. Some wore T-shirts with pictures of those they lost. They held photos of their loved ones high above their heads.
Readers at the podium spoke with cracking voices. Some choked through sobs.
They talked specifically, emotionally, of the person whose memory brought them there. Uncles, fathers, brothers.
They reminded listeners to never forget.
Some talked of how they hoped that time would help them heal but said they are still waiting for that day.
Those in the crowd stood tall and close as one victim's name after another was read.
The memorial waterfall could be heard in the background. And off to the side, a 20-year journalist began to cry.