New York City changes course, will now allow Tribute in Light to shine on 9/11

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NEW YORK CITY, NY – After considerable public outcry, officials at the 9/11 Museum and Memorial have reversed course on their decision not to have the iconic two blue beams known as Tribute in Light this year, for the tragic anniversary’s annual observance.

As we previously reported, the 9/11 Museum had canceled the display, stating that there were too many “health risks” from coronavirus for the large crew required to put the installation together.

The museum instead called for buildings to light up their own spires and facades in blue in what they called a “Tribute in Lights.”

Pushback ensued, with public castigation of the museum on social media. 

The museum was already under fire for disallowing families from reading the names of their fallen loved ones, which has been a tradition in the solemn 9/11 ceremony since it began. 

This second blow, canceling the Tribute in Light, was difficult to accept, for those seeking to honor and remember all who were lost.

Many people took to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum’s Facebook page to express their dismay.

One commenter wrote:

“Never forget! The Pandemic is no excuse for not maintaining this important memorial.

“Thousands of innocent people have perished and front line workers died or taken ill as a result of the criminals responsible for their cowardly, hateful act. The Tower of light tradition should remain at the memorial.”

Another said:

“Never forget means never forget. Your decision to cancel the lights is a slap in the face to everyone affected by this tragedy. Disgraceful.”

The New York Sergeants Benevolent Association faced the issue head-on, and offered to host its own “Tribute in Light” on September 11.

SBA president Ed Mullins placed the fault of the cancellation in the lap of Mayor Bill de Blasio, stating:

“He allowed mass protests and riots in the city with no concerns whatsoever about the pandemic.”

Mullins went on to say:

“The mayor won’t find a way to honor these heroes, but the SBA will pay tribute to all of the fallen victims by arranging for a Tribute in Light. A twin beam of light will shine on the evening of 9/11.”

The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation also stepped up to the plate and promised to make the display happen. 

The foundation honors firefighter Stephen Siller, who died saving others on September 11, 2001, and also honors all military and emergency responders.  Along with other charitable services to military and emergency responders, the organization works to provide smart homes for injured veterans, and helps families of fallen emergency responders pay off mortgages.

Frank Siller, Tunnel to Towers CEO and brother to Stephen Siller, spoke to Fox News about the 9/11 Memorial and Museum’s decision. 

He said:

“It broke my heart.  It really broke my heart.”

Siller touched on the massive public outcry on the decision, saying:

“The reactions that are from many other 9/11 family members, and many other New Yorkers, and many people from around the country, I’ve never seen the reaction that we have gotten.”

He added:

“I had one retired firefighter that was breaking down on the phone that couldn’t believe they were doing it….

“We said, ‘wait, wait, wait .. Tunnel to Towers, we got this.’ We are going to do it … We are going to make sure those two big beautiful beams of light, that represent the loss on 9/11 will be shining this year at Ground Zero.”

 

Siller added,

“I had one retired firefighter that was breaking down on the phone that couldn’t believe they were doing it….

“We said, ‘wait, wait, wait .. Tunnel to Towers, we got this.’ We are going to do it … We are going to make sure those two big beautiful beams of light, that represent the loss on 9/11 will be shining this year at Ground Zero.”

Now, it appears that the 9/11 Memorial and Museum has reversed its controversial decision and will allow the Tribute in Light to take place.

On their website, instead of the cancellation notification previously posted, the museum now announces,

“With gratitude to our Chairman Michael Bloomberg and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, we will be moving forward with Tribute in Light to commemorate the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.”

In a statement posted on Twitter, 9/11 Memorial and Museum President and CEO Alice Greenwald said:

“In the last 24 hours we’ve had conversations with many interested parties and believe we will be able to stage the tribute in a safe and appropriate fashion.”

Greenwald also thanked Governor Cuomo, Michael Bloomberg, and the Lower Manhattan Development Corp:

“for the assistance in offsetting the increased costs associated with the health and safety considerations around the tribute this year and the technical support of so many that will enable the Tribute to be a continuing source of comfort to families and an inspiration to the world going forward.”

Michael Bloomberg, who is Chairman of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, said in a statement also posted on the Museum’s Twitter:

“Throughout my tenure as Mayor the Tribute in Light was a powerful symbol of New York’s recovery after 9/11.

“I am pleased that once again it will shine this year as a beacon of our city’s resilience.”

On the same Twitter post, Governor Cuomo added:

“This year it is especially important that we all appreciate and commemorate 9/11, the lives lost, and the heroism displayed as New Yorkers are once again called upon to face a common enemy….

“The state will provide health personnel to supervise to make sure the event is held safely while at the same time properly honoring 9/11.

“We will never forget.”

 

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In case you happened to miss it, here is our original story on the 9/11 Museum’s cancellation of Tribute in Light.

In a sad blow struck against those seeking to mourn and honor the thousands of victims who perished in the attacks on 9/11/2001, 9/11 Memorial and Museum organizers have canceled the display of twin beams of light in lower Manhattan.

According to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum website,  “Tribute in Light” was first displayed six months after the horrific attacks.  This memorial features two beams made up of 88 lights that shine four miles heavenward. 

Every year on September 11, from dusk to dawn, they gleam in the shape of the twin towers to mark the tragic anniversary.

The website calls the installation:

“an iconic symbol that both honors those killed and celebrates the unbreakable spirit of New York.”

Citing COVID concerns, the 9/11 Memorial and Museum has canceled this display for 2020.

The organization stated on their website:

“This incredibly difficult decision was reached in consultation with our partners after concluding the health risks during the pandemic were far too great for the large crew required to produce the annual Tribute in Light.”

Instead of “Tribute in Light,” the museum has put forward the concept of “Tribute in Lights,”  saying,

“In a spirit of unity and remembrance, the city will come together for a “Tribute in Lights” initiative to inspire the world and honor the promise to never forget.”

For “Tribute in Lights,” individual buildings are to light up facades and spires in blue in a coordinated manner.

The museum has called on potential participants to email them to notify them of their plans.

There is no mention of potential virus hazards to crews working on lighting up individual structures.

Needless to say, those who were looking forward to a display to honor and remember are not pleased with this decision.

One Twitter user wrote,

“This angers me more than anythings.

“As most know I lost my cousin in 9/11, I also have my dad with major health issues from 9/11.

“This is something every year I have viewed and use as my memorial process every year.”

Another wrote on Twitter,

“Twenty years ago, NYC consisted of people willing to run into the burning Twin Towers.

“Today, they can’t even put on a light show to honor their brave predecessors.”

This is not the first time the annual 9/11 memorial proceedings have been changed this year due to concerns about coronavirus.

As we previously reported, family members will not be permitted to read the names of their loved ones at the ceremony.

Typically, in an hours-long process at the 9/11 memorial ceremony, families read each name of those lost in the Twin Towers and the aircraft.

Instead, this year, a recording of the names will be played.

The confounding part of this particular change is that families will still be allowed to attend the ceremony and gather in the Memorial Plaza on 9/11, as long as they adhere to social distancing and other COVID protocols.  They simply will not be allowed on the stage to read names.

Families were sent a letter that informed them that this decision was made,

“Out of an abundance of caution and in line with the guidance regarding social distancing.”

Grieving family member Sally Regenhard, whose firefighter son was killed on 9/11, touched on the cruel effects of this decision, saying,

“There’s absolutely no reason why the 9/11 memorial foundation made such a hurtful decision to prevent the families from reading their precious loved ones’ names.”

Fortunately for a limited number of families, the nonprofit Tunnel to Towers Foundation will be hosting its own ceremony near Ground Zero.

The ceremony will permit 140 speakers to honor their loved ones.

Regarding the 9/11 Museum’s decision, Tunnel to Towers Foundation CEO Frank Siller said,

“We have tremendous respect for the 9/11 museum and its leadership.

“However, not allowing families the opportunity to read the names of their loved ones robs this solemn ceremony of much of its significance.”

Siller added,

“That is why we are committed to safely giving these families a chance to honor and remember their loved ones in their own voices.”

So, in today’s New York, in the presence of coronavirus fears, riots and protests can continue.  The MTV Video Music awards can proceed as planned, undoubtedly manned by large crews. 

But solemn and dignified tributes, honoring those killed and helping to heal those left behind, must be abandoned.

What a world we live in.

 

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