MIDDLETOWN — The New Jersey municipality that lost the most souls in the 9/11 terrorist attacks refuses to let the 19th anniversary come and go without reading those victims' names out loud.

For the first time ever, out of an abundance of caution regarding COVID-19, the names of the thousands of individuals killed in the attacks will not be read aloud by family members at Ground Zero in Manhattan on the anniversary of the 2001 tragedy. Instead, a recording will be played for ceremony attendees.

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But there will be a live verbal acknowledgement of the 37 people who called Middletown home. On Friday, Mayor Tony Perry will begin the township's day of services by reading the names of the victims, as part of a 7 a.m. ceremony at the town's World Trade Center Memorial Gardens.

"Middletown, 19 years ago, promised the family members and promised this community that we wouldn't forget those lost on that day," Perry told New Jersey 101.5. "It's the least Middletown can do to extend our ceremony this year."

Hours later, the township is scheduled to hold its traditional candlelight ceremony in the Gardens. The rain-or-shine event typically sees about 500 attendees, Perry said.

Middletown was one of the New Jersey communities interested in taking over New York City's 9/11 twin-beam light tribute when it was expected it would not occur this year due to concerns over COVID-19. Following public outcry, the decision by organizers of the 9/11 Memorial & Museum was reversed and the tribute is taking place in New York as it has in years past.

Perry said this anniversary of the attacks may be especially important for New Jerseyans, given the upside-down lifestyle caused by the coronavirus pandemic over the past six months.

"We find ourselves in turbulent times," Perry said. "We have a presidential election, we have a pandemic, and I think people are looking back to the hope and to the patriotism that we all felt on Sept. 12."

New Jersey lost 750 lives in the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

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