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

Members of an interfaith memorial gaze at the Manhattan skyline on September 11, 2013. Michael Bocchieri/Getty Images
  • September 11, 2019 is the 18th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Centre. The destruction of the Twin Towers left a glaring hole in the New York City skyline.
  • Following the attacks, movies and television shows replaced images of or cut scenes involving the buildings.
  • In the intervening 18 years, New York has rebuilt the area around ground zero and delivered a yearly tribute in memory of the nearly 3,000 lives lost as a result of those attacks.
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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 Centre – one of seven new buildings at the original World Trade Centre 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 Centre, opened on June 11, 2018.

The most iconic of these renovated structures, One World Trade Centre, 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

At around 1,360 feet each, the Twin Towers were a prodigious feature of the Manhattan skyline. Mark Lennihan/AP

September 11, 2001

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

September 11, 2002

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

September 11, 2003

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

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

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

September 11, 2005

With construction in full swing, New Yorkers gather in front of a reflecting pool at the World Trade Centre site. Henny Ray Abrams/AP

September 11, 2006

A New Yorker gazes at the Manhattan skyline from the Brooklyn waterfront on the fifth anniversary of 9/11. Peter Morgan/AP

September 11, 2007

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

September 11, 2008

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

September 11, 2009

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

September 11, 2010

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

September 11, 2011

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

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

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

September 11, 2013

Residents 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. Michael Bocchieri/Getty Images

September 11, 2014


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

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

September 11, 2016

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

September 11, 2017


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.”

September 11, 2018

A couple hugs as The Tribute in Light is seen in the sky above Lower Manhattan area of New York from across the Hudson River on the 17th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018, in Jersey City, N.J. Andres Kudacki / Associated Press

September 11, 2019

A U.S. Flag hanging from a steal girder, damaged in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre, blows in the breeze at a memorial in Jersey City, N.J., Sept. 11, 2019 as the sun rises behind One World Trade Centre building and the re-developed area where the Twin Towers of World Trade Centre once stood in New York City on the 18th anniversary of the attacks. J. David Ake / Associated Press