New York state Governor Andrew Cuomo said Saturday afternoon that the state would ensure the annual 9/11 tribute light installation will go on as planned, just days after it was canceled over coronavirus concerns.
The National September 11 Memorial & Museum said Thursday in a statement that it was canceling the Tribute in Light because the ‘health risks during the pandemic were far too great for the large crew required’ to put together the installation.
A nonprofit organization then stepped in Friday, saying that it would put on the tribute, but Cuomo tweeted Saturday that the state ‘will provide health personnel & supervision so that @Sept11Memorial can mount the Tribute in Light safely.’
Cuomo added that ‘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. We will #NeverForget.
‘Honoring our 9/11 heroes is a cherished tradition. The twin towers of light signify hope, resiliency, promise and are a visual representation of #NewYorkTough,’ he wrote.
Cuomo ended the Tribute in Light statement by thanking former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg – who is the 9/11 museum’s chairman – for partnering with the state to put on the light display and wrote, ‘The virus has taken so much and so many. But now the tribute will continue.’
Bloomberg, meanwhile, tweeted his thanks to Cuomo ‘for providing personnel and joining us to ensure the lights shine on.’
The installation requires eighty-eight 7,000-watt xenon light bulbs to be positioned on the roof of a parking garage near where the Twin Towers once stood.
Cuomo’s statements came the day after members of the New York City police and fire departments joined forces with nonprofit organization Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation to hold an alternative 9/11 tribute display after the 9/11 museum canceled the annual ceremony.
The organization said Friday it would plan this year’s light memorial to honor the victims of the terror attacks on the 19th anniversary of the tragedy.
The ‘Tribute in Light’ ceremony, normally organized the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, draws crowds of mourners every year to watch the iconic twin beams of light representing the World Trade Center towers illuminate the sky.
Tunnel to Towers foundation president Frank Siller confirmed they secured the lights and are expected to confirm a location by early next week, The New York Daily News reported.
Port Authority Police, along with members of the NYPD and FDNY, had agreed to move the spotlights to Port Authority property near the World Trade Center.
The lights are usually installed on top of the Battery Parking Garage that is located near the museum.
Paul Nunziato, president of the Port Authority Police Benevolent Association, said the cancellation of the light tribute would only feel more ‘demoralizing’ for New Yorkers as they battle the coronavirus pandemic.
He also criticized Mayor Bill de Blasio for not doing enough to save the ceremony.
‘For all the nonsense the mayor has allowed in recent months, what is the problem with putting the lights up?’ he told the paper.
de Blasio, however, does not have authority over the museum.
On Thursday, Michael Frazier, a spokesman for the September 11 museum, said organizers were particularly worried about the health risks to workers who would set up the display.
To create the installation, known as ‘Tribute in Light’, 40 stagehands and electricians work in close proximity for more than a week.
There were also concerns over gatherings in the streets and on rooftops to see the installation.
‘The world’s beloved twin beams of light regrettably will not shine over Lower Manhattan as part of this year’s 9/11 tributes after concluding the health risks during the pandemic were far too great,’ Frazier said in a statement.
The Memorial & Museum is planning an alternative display that will include spires and facades of buildings in Manhattan being illuminated in blue, he said.
The lights first appeared in March 2002, six months after the attack, when they were originally organized by the Municipal Art Society.
They can be seen up to 60 miles away in the days leading up to 9/11 each year and extend four miles into the sky.
The lights are typically turned on at dusk and would shine through the night until dawn on September 12.
It has become one of the signature elements of the annual commemorations, and the memorial and museum took over the organization of the tribute in 2012.
The full installation consists of 88 specially made Space Cannon lights, each with a 7,000-watt xenon compressed gas bulb, Scott Campbell of Michael Ahern Production Services, which produces the event, told the New York Times.
It is powered by temporary generators, which are set out on the roof of a garage on Greenwich Street two squares of about 50-by-50 feet.
The memorial will return next year, Frazier added, for what will be the 20th anniversary of the attacks.
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 from 9/11 and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
They said recorded name readings from the museum’s ‘In Memoriam’ exhibition will be used instead of having relatives read the names in person.
Families are still invited to gather at an outdoor memorial this year but social distancing measures will be in place.
The hours-long ceremony will involve the listing of the victims names and six moments of silence.
Nearly 3,000 people were killed when terrorist-piloted planes slammed into the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001.
New York City has successfully kept the spread of coronavirus outbreak under control in the past few weeks after becoming the global epicenter of the outbreak at the end of March.
The positive test rate in the Big Apple has stayed at 1 percent or below since June and no spike has been reported after progressing through all the planned phases of its reopening.
New cases have increased among residents in their 20s, but fallen among people over 40.