WESTPORT — Nineteen years after the World Trade Center was leveled in terrorist attacks and took the lives of thousands, the memory of the day still evokes pain for many.

On Thursday, elected officials, families and friends gathered at Sherwood Island State Park in masks to pay their respects to those who died on 9/11. The ceremony noticeably marked another tragedy the nation is going through as it grapples with the coronavirus pandemic.

“This is a year we’re never going to forget and 9/11 is a day we’ll never forget, and should never forget,” Gov. Ned Lamont said before the gathered audience.

Lamont said one of his memories from the day was the extraordinary heroism he saw by first responders in rescuing and assisting many in the aftermath of the towers being struck.

“We had a different type of first responder during COVID and it involved essential workers, but they were heroes just the same,” he said, highlighting doctors, food service providers and others who assisted throughout the pandemic.

After the tragedy the nation was united in a way it had not been in several years, Lamont said, and a similar sense of unity could sprout from the pandemic.

The impact of the day is emotional from those directly and indirectly impacted by the tragedy.

Fred Haschak, a 72-year-old Bridgeport resident and 35-year veteran of Bridgeport Fire Departmet, said he plans to walk eight miles from his Black Rock residence to Sherwood Island State Park to honor the memory of those lost in the 9/11 attack. He said he carries a flag with all the names of the people who perished as he walks.

“I reflect all the way and it means a lot to me,” he said.” I feel it’s something I have to do for the 343 (New York City firefighters) and the people who died.”

Harris Falk, a Westport resident who lived in New York when the attacks occurred, said he stayed in his city to help however he could on 9/11.

“When something horrific happens everybody pulls together,” he said. “I know in New York everybody pulled together. ... I’m hoping we do that with COVID.”

Bruce Taylor, a Weston resident, said in Fairfield County after 9/11 many families were brought together and got to know each other.

“We don’t see each other often,” he said. “But at least once a year we see the people we met 19 years ago. That’s a nice part of this very sad occasion.”

Connie Taylor, a Weston resident whose son Bradley H. Vadas was one of many Connecticut residents who died, said it’s important to never forget the tragedy of 9/11.

“I think it’s important we don’t forget out past and what has happened,” she said. “I’m always very moved by this and glad I could make it one more time.”

dj.simmons@hearstmediact.com