Stunning images of the New York City skyline every year on 9/11

Michael Bocchieri/Getty ImagesMembers of an interfaith memorial gaze at the Manhattan skyline on September 11, 2013.

The 9/11 terrorist attacks transformed New York City and its skyline.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, smoke filled the air, casting a grey film over the city’s Financial District. As the smog began to lift, New Yorkers were confronted with the glaring disappearance of the Twin Towers, a structural duo that had become synonymous with the city itself. Movies and television shows scrambled to replace or eliminate scenes of the buildings, and video games and animated features changed their storylines to reflect their absence.

By 2002, construction began on 7 World Trade Center – one of seven new buildings at the original World Trade Center site. In the coming years, the skyline made way for cranes and steel columns as builders laid the foundation for the complex. By the end of 2014, three buildings in the site’s master plan were standing. The fourth building, 3 World Trade Center, opened on June 11, 2018.

The most iconic of these renovated structures, One World Trade Center, is now the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. At 1,776 feet high, the tower is a glaring reminder of the city’s reconstruction and rebirth.

The following images trace the evolution of New York’s skyline before the attacks, on the day of 9/11, and on every anniversary thereafter. In addition to huge structural changes, the images depict citywide tributes to the nearly 3,000 lives lost.


Before the attacks


September 11, 2001

Robert Giroux/Getty ImagesSmoke billows from the Twin Towers after they were struck by two hijacked planes.

September 11, 2002

Jose Jimenez/Primera Hora/Getty ImagesMourners gather at Ground Zero for the World Trade Center memorial service. For two and a half hours, officials recited the names of the victims against a backdrop of orchestra music.

September 11, 2003

Chris Hondros/Getty ImagesThe Tribute in Light glows behind the Statue of Liberty on September 11, 2003.

New York City commemorates the attacks each year by casting 88 searchlights into the sky, creating two columns of light to represent the Twin Towers. The installation, known as Tribute in Light, started on the first anniversary of 9/11 and has since become an annual memorial.


September 11, 2004

Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesThe 2004 light tribute peers through the hazy New York skyline.

September 11, 2005


September 11, 2006


September 11, 2007

Mike Segar-Pool/Getty ImagesFriends and family of 9/11 victims convene for the annual wreath-laying service, in which members of the public deliver remarks.

September 11, 2008

Spencer Platt/Getty ImagesA subway charges into Manhattan on an overcast day, marking seven years since 9/11.

September 11, 2009

Rick Gershon/Getty ImagesAmid showering skies, families, firefighters, and police officers lay flowers at Ground Zero during the annual 9/11 memorial ceremony.

September 11, 2010

Chris Hondros/Getty ImagesFirefighters gather in front of a reflecting pool at Ground Zero, with construction efforts towering above them.

September 11, 2011

Spencer Platt/Getty ImagesA bouquet of flowers atop a fence overlooking lower Manhattan on the morning of the ten-year anniversary of 9/11.

Since 2011, politicians have not been allowed to read names or deliver remarks at the 9/11 commemoration service in order to preserve the apolitical nature of the ceremony.


September 11, 2012

Spencer Platt/Getty ImagesA New Yorker runs along the Brooklyn waterfront against a backdrop of the Manhattan skyline.

September 11, 2013

Michael Bocchieri/Getty ImagesResidents of Hoboken, New Jersey, attend an interfaith memorial as the Tribute in Light illuminates the Manhattan skyline. The Freedom Tower, visible in the background, had not yet been officially unveiled.

September 11, 2014

Eric Thayer/Getty Images

As New Yorkers gathered for another year of memorial services, former President Obama delivered a speech at the Pentagon in Washington, DC. “Beginning tomorrow, there will be teenagers – young adults – who were born after 9/11,” Obama said. “While these young Americans did not know the horrors of that day, their lives have been shaped by all the days since.”


September 11, 2015

Kena Betancur/Getty ImagesThe Tribute in Light casts a familiar glow over the New York skyline on the evening of September 11, 2015.

September 11, 2016

Michael Heiman/Getty ImagesThe Tribute in Light installation shines on the 15th anniversary of 9/11, which saw clear skies.

September 11, 2017

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Donald Trump delivered remarks at the Pentagon’s 9/11 memorial service last year. “We’re gathered here today to remember a morning that started very much like this one,” he said. “On that day, not only did the world change, but we all changed. Our eyes were opened to the depths of the evil we face. But in that hour of darkness, we also came together with renewed purpose. Our differences never looked so small, our common bonds never felt so strong.”

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