What to Know
- The Tunnel to Towers Foundation announced it is working on plans to beam twin columns of light into the Manhattan sky to represent the World Trade Center during next month's anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks
- Citing concerns about the coronavirus pandemic, organizers with the September 11 Memorial & Museum announced Thursday the Tribute of Light remembrance would not go ahead this year
- NYC council members and unions representing first responders criticized the decision to cancel the tribute, and the charity group
Plans are back on to beam twin columns of light into the Manhattan sky to represent the World Trade Center during next month's anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.
The Tunnel to Towers Foundation announced Friday that it is working on plans to shine the twin beams during its alternative September 11 ceremony. The move comes a days after the organizers of the official tribute canceled the light display over concerns about work crews during the coronavirus pandemic.
"The twin beams of light that shine over lower Manhattan in silent tribute to those lost on 9/11 are an iconic symbol of hope visibly showing that light will always triumph over darkness," said Frank Siller, chairman and chief executive of the foundation.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday that state health personnel would help staff and supervise the tribute, adding, "I am glad that we can continue this powerful tribute to those we lost on 9/11 and to the heroism of all New Yorkers."
A spokesman for National September 11 Memorial & Museum, said Thursday that organizers were concerned about the health risks to workers who would set up the display. The Memorial & Museum is planning an alternative display that will include spires and facades of buildings in Manhattan being illuminated in blue, the spokesman said.
Last month, organizers also cited the pandemic in canceling one of the most poignant parts of previous memorials — the personal messages spoken by families of victims. They said recorded name readings from the museum's “In Memoriam” exhibition will be used instead of having relatives read the names in person.
That idea led the Tunnel to Towers Foundation to come up with the plan to hold an alternative 9/11 Never Forget ceremony. The foundation’s tribute will be held just south of the memorial plaza and relatives will read the victims' names, with mask-wearing enforced and podiums being sanitized after each speaker.
Elected leaders and unions representing New York's first responders criticized the initial decision to suspend the Tribute in Lights, while a firefighters union said that the decision to not have the display "really let a lot of people down" in the city.
"The Towers of Light have been, and will always be, a symbol showing that New York City and this country can not be kept down, and will stand strong and proud in the face of any tragedy or disaster," said Andrew Ansbro, president of the Uniform Firefighters Association. He added that the cancellation was "just absolutely unnecessary" and that the foundation will get any assistance they need from the union.
"The lights are an amazing way for people to remember those who were lost on 9/11. They’re inspirational. When you walk outside on a September night your eyes are drawn to it. They’re drawn to Lower Manhattan. It’s a reminder of who and what was lost. It’s a also a reminder that we’re still here, we’re still standing. It’s uplifting," Ansbro said. "I feel (the museum) really didn’t learn from their story when they chose not to continue the display. The display is about standing tall and resilient and memorializing what was lost that day ... they didn’t learn the lessons that they’re trying to teach."
A collective of 10 New York City Council members drafted and signed a letter to President Donald Trump asking for federal intervention to save the annual light display. In their letter, the council members ask the president to "find a creative way for a federal agency or branch of the armed forces to help save" the Tribute in Light remembrance.
At one point on Friday, the law enforcement union representing New York City's police sergeants announced their intention to step in and create a light display of their own for the anniversary's commemoration. Union president Ed Mullins said the men and women of the Sergeants Benevolent Association "will make sure" a twin beam of lights shines on Sept. 11. Mullins later said that the union was unaware that the Tunnel to Towers Foundation was already working on a light tribute, and that both will work together on a display.
The exact location of the twin beams display has yet to be determined, said officials with the foundation, a charity founded to honor the memory of New York City firefighter Stephen Siller, who died in the attacks and was Frank Siller’s brother.
Nearly 3,000 people were killed when terrorist-piloted planes slammed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, 2001.