Written by Devon Mitchell
Friday September 11th marks nineteen years since the fatal attacks on the Twin Towers in New York City. For the past eighteen years the National September 11th Memorial and Museum has hosted the Tribute in Light, which consists of two columns of light towering over the New York City skyline until dawn of September 12th. This year there was controversy over if the Tribute should take place due to COVID-19 concerns.
In early August, the museum announced that it was to cancel the event due to the coronavirus pandemic. While this event doesn’t attract spectators to gather in close proximity, it does involve a large quantity of workers to put on the tribute. As many as 40 stagehands and electricians work together in the week leading up to install 88 specially made lights. In order to prevent the further spread of the virus, the museum made the decision to forgo the commemoration.
Their caution comes after feeling the effects of shutdowns amid COVID-19. The National September 11th Memorial and Museum closed the museum and outdoor memorial in the beginning of the shutdown and since then has reopened the outdoor memorial. A drop in ticket sales led to layoffs and furloughs. Still feeling these effects, the organization has decided on playing it safe.
Despite the decision, folks were upset by the cancellation. For many, the two towering columns of light are representative of a community hurt and the healing they did together in the aftermath. The lights represent the strength and hope tapped into after the attacks. There was an uproar from people who felt this tribute was too important and symbolic to cancel. Only a few days after the initial decision was made, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the state would provide the Museum and Memorial with the necessary health personnel and supervision to safely put on the tribute.
This new decision to hold the tribute was not taken lightly, and many people from the Museum and Memorial, as well as concerned parties, were involved. The president and chief executive of the museum, Alice Greenwald said this in a Twitter statement, “We recognize the profound meaning it has for so many New Yorkers… This year, its message of hope, endurance and resilience are more important than ever,”
Those words hold true for many Americans. In these times of uncertainty, the blazing beacon of hope from the twin columns reassure folks that during dark times the American people are resilient and can come back fighting from tragedy.