9/11 Ninth Anniversary: Tribute in Light


I stood next to Ground Zero’s twin beams of light commemorating the victims of 9/11 a year ago today. Earlier that evening, I had milled around the World Trade Center area with two friends from college. We peeked through construction barricades to look at the reconstruction efforts and listened to bagpipe players playing funeral dirges for fallen firefighters. As my friends and I approached the Tribute in Light installation like moths drawn to a flame, we traced the lights’ origins to Battery Parking Garage at 38 Washington Street.

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Standing outside the garage became boring quickly so we looked for a way inside. We found one.

Getting inside was easy. We simply walked in. No ropes or glass cutters were needed (so I put them away). My friends were hesitant, but I egged them on and advised we stay away from the windows, which meant all four walls of the glass-facade garage. When we reached the room that led to the rooftop, we saw photographers and what seemed to be organizers. I walked slowly towards rows of folding chairs that had a perfect view of the spotlights generating the beams. It looked like the whole setup was a show for an audience that had just left.

A woman, who seemed like she was in charge, noticed and walked towards me. My friends afraid of getting slapped with a trespassing charge had, in the meanwhile, retreated down a level.

“Hi,” I said confidently so as to deflect any pointed questions. “So I noticed these bright lights from my apartment, and I was wondering if I could take a closer look.”

“How did you get past security?” she asked incredulously.

“What security?”

She walked to a table to discuss with her peers what to do with me. “Alright, you can stay.”

“Guys! It’s safe!” I shouted. My friends emerged with a giddy look on their face. We stayed on the roof for a while talking with reporters, documentary filmmakers, and event organizers. The towers of light extending up to the clouds above were silent and otherworldly. Some person there told us that in past years legions of moths, mosquitos, and other bugs would swarm all over the lights. I imagined the dozens of spotlights acting as a huge bug zapper producing a soft carpet of fried insect carcasses by the end of the night.

I found out later that a non-profit called the Municipal Art Society organized this annual commemoration. The MAS hired a Las Vegas company to place 88 searchlights powered by a 30% blend of domestically produced biodiesel atop the garage. The tribute will continue through 2011, according to the Times. Here’s some baller photos.

MAS Senior Vice-President Frank Sanchis describes the origins of Tribute in Light and how it is put together annually on September 11.

This year’s 9/11 has been marked with a crazy Florida pastor and controversy over a proposed Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero.