The Tribute in Light is an art installation of 88 searchlights placed six blocks south of the World Trade Center on top of the Battery Parking Garage in New York City to create two vertical columns of light to represent the Twin Towers in remembrance of the September 11 attacks. Tribute in Light began initially as a temporary commemoration of the attacks in early 2002 but became an annual commemoration, currently produced on September 11 by the Municipal Art Society of New York.
On clear nights, the lights can be seen from over 60 miles (97 km) away, visible in all of New York City and most of suburban Northern New Jersey and Long Island. The lights can also be seen in Fairfield County, Connecticut, as well as Westchester, Orange, and Rockland counties in New York. The beams have been clearly visible as far north as the terrace at Century Country Club in Purchase, New York, from at least as far west as western Morris County, in Flanders, New Jersey, at least as far east as the barrier beach of Fire Island in Suffolk County, New York on Long Island, and as far south near Trenton, New Jersey in nearby Hamilton.
The two beams cost approximately $1,626 (assuming $0.11 per kWh) to run for 24 hours. There are 88 xenon spotlights (44 for each tower) which each consume 7,000 watts. As of 2011, the annual cost for the entire project was about half a million dollars.
After the September 11 attacks, several people independently conceived the idea of using lights for remembrance, and efforts were merged under the umbrella of the Municipal Art Society and Creative Time.
Tribute in Light initially ran as a temporary installation from March 11 to April 14, 2002, and ran again on September 11, 2003 to mark the second anniversary of the attack. Since then, it has been repeated every year on September 11. It was announced that 2008 would be its final year, but the tribute was continued in 2009.
On December 17, 2009, it was confirmed that the tribute would continue through to the tenth anniversary of the attacks in 2011, but continued again in 2012. In 2012, plans were underway for the National September 11 Memorial & Museum to assume the lease for the MTA property used during this tribute, and to begin transitioning operation of the tribute from the Municipal Art Society to the memorial foundation.
The lights are produced by an Italian company named Space Cannon, who sends a team every year to help with the installation. A Las Vegas-based company, Light America, was also part of the team that implemented the project.
Each year, about 30 technicians, electricians and stagehands work for about ten days to install the lights, which also involves a testing phase of several days during which observers located in Brooklyn, Staten Island, New Jersey and uptown Manhattan help make sure that the beams are adjusted accurately.
The project was originally going to be named Towers of Light, but the victims' families felt that the name emphasized the buildings destroyed instead of the people killed.
Since 2008, the generators that power Tribute in Light have been fueled with biodiesel made from used cooking oil collected from local restaurants.
The light pollution from Tribute in Light has caused confusion for thousands of migrating birds, trapping them in the beams. As a result of this effect, the lights are switched off for 20-minute periods to allow the birds to escape. To ensure the lights do not affect migrating birds, the Municipal Art Society works with the New York City Audubon on the illumination. A 2017 study found that the installation "dramatically altered multiple behaviors of nocturnally migrating birds—but these effects disappeared when lights were extinguished".
Tribute in Light was featured in Boyz II Men's music video for "Color of Love". It made a notable appearance during the opening credits of Spike Lee's 2002 film 25th Hour. The tribute was also shown and referenced in the CBS series Blue Bloods. These lights were featured in the music video of U2's You're the Best Thing About Me.
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