NEW YORK - Somewhere out on the Hudson River, a commuter ferry's engine fell silent.
At the Central Park Tennis Center, a man stringing a tennis racket turned his head toward a television to watch a child read a name. Along a highway on-ramp in Queens, a dozen cars slowed to a stop. Alone in her car, with her radio on, a woman wept.
At the indelible minute on the unforgettable date, not one of those drivers sat on the horn. On the ferry, passengers squinted at the skyline, bowed their heads, closed their eyes. At the tennis center, Al Drowyn swallowed a small choke of emotion, then turned back to his work.
Life lurched on.
Sept. 11, 2003, made its presence felt yesterday in New York City in countless small and bigger ways. For some people, it landed at daybreak like a blow to the chest.
For others, it hovered, a persistent ache. For at least a few, it was a whisper as they went about their business, a memory receding.
The millions of people who could not attend the official memorial ceremony at the World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan acknowledged the second anniversary of the terrorist attack in mostly private acts, swimming between the undertow of memory and the impulse to move on.
Yvonne Ristich, a retired nurse who lives on the Upper East Side, chose to wear a pre-Sept. 11 World Trade Center T-shirt and put stars-and-stripes bandannas on her two beagles.
Tanequa Hunt, a 27-year-old marketing representative, had plans to share a birthday cake with a cousin in the Bronx whose wife was killed in the trade center attack. She would have turned 33 today.
Thousands of city sanitation workers were asked by their department to stop work for moments of silence to mark the times when the first and the second planes hit the towers.
Some parents made a point of being at home when their children returned from school. People holed themselves up in their bedrooms to watch television. Some prayed. A few managed, fleetingly, to forget.
"I totally forgot about it until I walked into the nursery school," said Stephanie Lane, the production accountant for Sex and the City on HBO. It came back to her about 9 a.m. while dropping off her 3-year-old at a school on the Upper West Side. "It made me sad that I was so busy getting my life together with my kid that I hadn't taken a serious moment today to reflect on it."
The second anniversary of the terrorist attacks felt to many New Yorkers quite different from the first. The memory was less raw, they said; if not acceptance, there had been a coming to terms. The feeling of panic had faded for many, rightly or wrongly. While some were struck by how quickly they could still be moved to tears, many said that last year had been worse.
Organized commemorating had been whittled back in many instances to a sliver of the day - a morning memorial service at a church in Little Italy before the annual Feast of San Gennaro opened, a wreath-laying before the Yankees played ball. Fewer people seemed to leave town; fewer took the day off work.
In many ways, the day was like others. Nine babies had been born at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center by 5 p.m. The evening's performance of Hairspray on Broadway was sold out. Pilar Baldera, a school counselor in Washington Heights, stopped in to see her social worker at a public assistance center on West 125th Street to discuss a threatened shutoff of power to her apartment.
At a grocery store in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, Mumufla Ahmad, the 53-year-old manager who is a Yemeni immigrant and a Muslim, said he was going about his day as usual. But he said the anniversary had rekindled his outrage over the attack. "Everyone still feels bad about that day," he said. "Some people blamed all Muslims, but it was bad for everybody."
In Howard Beach, Queens, Tom Picarella, 50, had taped an American flag to the back of his Harley-Davidson and was wearing an FDNY sweat shirt. In Far Rockaway, Jay Velasquez, the owner of a waterfront snack bar, lowered his flag to half-staff. When the reading of the names started on the television, he said, a customer who had operated a crane at Ground Zero got up and walked out.
"He said, 'I can't sit through this. It's too much,'" Velasquez said.
At the tennis center in Central Park, barely anyone playing appeared to pause at 8:46 a.m. But Louise Ring, a retired schoolteacher, stopped her game and left her court out of respect for the dead. She had had the worst nightmare of her life the night before, she said: The city was burning; "I was telling my friend, I don't know how the survivors can get past this."
Out on the Hudson River, a New York Waterway ferry slipped out of Hoboken, N.J., at 8:40 a.m. under a hauntingly cloudless sky. As it approached the World Financial Center in Lower Manhattan, the captain announced it would stop for a moment of silence. The boat heaved to a halt. Then the engine whirred back to life. Evette Tomah, 37, of Bayonne, N.J. choked back tears as she remembered Sept. 11, 2001.
"That day, the sky was a little more blue," she said.