Attendance was modest at the annual State House ceremony commemorating Sept. 11.
And that was just fine with Barbara Pothier, whose brother-in-law died in the terrorist attacks 11 years ago.
“It feels like it’s just the families again,” Pothier said Tuesday. “And that’s just as it should be.”
For families and friends of the 206 Massachusetts victims of 9/11, Tuesday’s memorial services were smaller and quieter than ever before — a marked difference from last years’s 10-year anniversary that dominated news and public attention.
This year, families said, the more solemn remembrances seem smaller and more intimate. But events that use volunteerism as a way to honor the day are growing.
“It’s more about community service events, and there’s less of a buzz around negative aspects this year,” said Cindy McGinty, whose husband died at the World Trade Center. “That makes me very pleased.”
Commemorative events in the city started at 7:30 a.m. in Boston Public Garden, where a wreath of ivory flowers was placed at the center of the Sept. 11 memorial in front of 70 people, including Mayor Thomas M. Menino, Senator Scott Brown and his wife, Gail Huff, Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis, and Attorney General Martha Coakley.
After the event, George and Faye Kane placed a bouquet of purple and white daisies at the base of a large granite semicircle inscribed with the names of the victims. They paused, considered the placement, then moved the bouquet a few feet, directly under the name of their daughter, Jennifer, who died in the World Trade Center’s North Tower.
Even with less public focus on the anniversary, the Kanes said they had not seen a dropoff in warmth and encouragement from their community in Plymouth.
“We’ve found the support has been just as strong as it always is,” Faye Kane said.
After the ceremony, families ambled toward the steps of the State House and the soaring melodies of a brass quartet stirring the chilly morning air.
Just before 8:46 a.m. — the moment the first hijacked airplane hit the South Tower of the World Trade Center — a flag was raised, then lowered to half-staff. A moment of silence followed, then two rounds of taps. Beacon Street pedestrians halted and bowed their heads.
Governor Deval Patrick and Lieutenant Governor Timothy P. Murray each read a handful of the 206 names and were followed by family members who infused their recitations with personal messages.
“My dear brother, Paul Joshua Friedman.”
“My lovely wonderful daughter Lisa Fenn Gordenstein — wonderful mother, sister, and wife.”
“My funny sister, dearly missed and forever loved, Susan Leigh Blair.”
Inside the State House, families watched an annual slideshow of victims’ photos — a montage of wedding dresses, fishing trips, and an outing to a petting zoo — as they wiped their eyes..
The ceremony also honored three individuals:
Robbie and Brittany Bergquist, who were 9 and 10 years old when the attacks happened, started a national program to provide cellphones and free minutes to overseas troops.
Paul Antonino, 53, from Wakefield, was given a bravery award named for Madeline Amy Sweeney, a flight attendant on American Airlines Flight 11 who conveyed critical information to ground officials before her plane crashed into the North Tower.
In April, Antonino rushed into a burning East Boston building to evacuate 23 adults and seven children before firefighters arrived.
After the ceremony, family and friends of the 9/11 victims said the event was exactly what they needed — somber and poignant, but also simple and unassuming.
One woman admitted she found last year’s anniversary “kind of hellish,” because it forced her family to relive their worst day again and again.
Debby Fenn, Gordonstein’s sister, agreed.
“I was glad to have less hoopla so I could have my own private experience,” Fenn said.
Pothier said it was strange, and surprisingly pleasant, to see that some victims’ families did not attend this year’s event. Grieving in private may be a sign that they are moving on.
“Everybody has to mourn and deal with those things in their own way,” Pothier said.
Though it was a quiet day at the State House, hundreds of volunteers gathered at the Milk Street section of the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway to assemble 1,000 care packages for those serving in the military overseas. The event was hosted by the Massachusetts Military Heroes Fund.
Each box was filled with toiletries, socks, granola bars, international calling cards, baby wipes, single-serving coffee packets, and handwritten notes of thanks, encouragement, and all-important news updates: “P.S. The Pats won their first game 34-13!”
On a day that is so difficult for so many, “it’s a great feeling to come out and help others,” said Tom Crohan, vice president of the fund.