Friday, September 10, 2010

Tribute Light to Shine in Memory of 9/11

The world was changed forever when the planes struck the twin towers in New York City, 9-years ago. A New York Times journalist writes about the two beams of light that will shine to honor the lives lost on that day.

September 10, 2010, 1:25 pm

‘Tribute in Light’ Will Keep Shining, This Year and the Next
Most New Yorkers may not know exactly where they come from or who turns them on and off. But almost everyone in the New York region who has gazed into the night sky on Sept. 11 in recent years has come to expect to find twin beams of bluish-white light reaching from Lower Manhattan heavenward.

Or are they descending from heaven down to Lower Manhattan?

That’s what makes the beams, called “Tribute in Light,” so appealing: By virtue of the tribute’s silence, constancy and anonymity — indeed, its near-mystery — it is a 9/11 memorial that can symbolize anything a viewer cares to impute. In fact, it can symbolize nothing whatsoever and just be an enjoyable nighttime spectacle, with the bonus of a thrilling optical illusion in which the beams seem to bend gently toward the viewer as one’s eyes travel upward.

The array of lights atop the Battery Garage, near ground zero, in 2006. But the lack of an obvious author or sponsor leaves admirers wondering, from one year to the next, whether the lights will return. The perennial answer seems to be yes, for the near future; unknown beyond that. On Tuesday and Wednesday, test runs of the Tribute in Light were visible around the city. (It’s not the kind of thing you can hide behind a screen.) So there’s no question about its appearance on Saturday night.

“Tribute in Light, as you know, is definitely on for this year, and it’s definitely on for next year,” said Vin Cipolla, the president of the Municipal Art Society, which, as it turns out, sponsors the annual display at a cost that he put at “a little north of a couple of hundred thousand dollars.” Financing comes from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. The project is further supported by Con Ed.

“We are in the planning stages of trying to determine its longer-term future,” Mr. Cipolla said. “M.A.S. would like to see it become a permanent memorial. That would require either a piece of ground or a long-term commitment to a rooftop.” The 88 searchlights that produce the two beams are currently arrayed once a year on the roof deck of the Battery Garage, six blocks south of the World Trade Center site. But there is no guarantee how long that space will be available.

The ideal solution, Mr. Cipolla said, would be “if the beams could be fully suspended in the air, without the need for any terrestrial fixture.”

In any case, he said, there are no plans to incorporate Tribute in Light into the National September 11 Memorial and Museum at the trade center site. “It’s seen as a separate, public art presentation,” Mr. Cipolla said.

That independence suits Gustavo Bonevardi, one of the creators of the installation, together with John Bennett, Richard Nash Gould, Julian LaVerdiere and Paul Myoda, working with Paul Marantz, a lighting designer, and Michael Ahern, an event producer.

“Because Tribute in Light is visible from so many places,” Mr. Bonevardi said, “it belongs to the city as a whole and not to this one ’sacred spot.’ The Tribute in Light has never been on ground zero, but it seems to have hit a nerve with the city and to have been very healing.”

It is to begin at dusk on Saturday and fade, as always, with the arrival of the dawn on Sept. 12.

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