Tribute in Light

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Tribute in Light, in 2014.
In 2010, as seen from Brooklyn.

The Tribute in Light is an art installation of 88 searchlights placed six blocks south of the World Trade Center to create two vertical columns of light to represent the Twin Towers in remembrance of the September 11 attacks.[1] It is produced annually by the Municipal Art Society of New York.[2]

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.[3]


The idea of two vertical beams of light was first suggested by Ezra Orion, an Israeli sculptor, in 1997. Orion proposed an art installation in which 120 Xenon searchlights were to be placed on the tops of the Twin Towers for the 1998 4th of July celebration, on September 25th, 1997, Orion met with Richard Heart, the vice president of Xenon, and the municipal art adviser, at the top of the south tower. Although the response to Orion’s suggestion was enthusiastic, it was deemed too expensive.

The Tribute in Light initially ran as a temporary installation from March 11 to April 14, 2002, and was launched again in 2003 to mark the second anniversary of the attack, as of 2016, it has been repeated every year on September 11. It had been announced that 2008 would be its final year,[1] but the tribute was continued in 2009.[4]

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,[5] as of July 23, 2012, plans are 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.[6]

Those working on the project came up with the concept in the week following the attack, on September 13, 2001, the concept was introduced by John Englehart in a meeting with the crisis communications task force at the electric utility Consolidated Edison, as a signal of support for the community. Architects John Bennett and Gustavo Bonevardi of PROUN Space Studio distributed their "Project for the Immediate Reconstruction of Manhattan's Skyline". Artists Julian LaVerdiere and Paul Myoda, who before September 11 were working on the 91st floor of the World Trade Center north tower on a proposed light sculpture on the giant radio antenna with Creative Time, conceived of a project called "Phantom Towers", they were commissioned by The New York Times Magazine, (Janet Froelich, art director) to create an image of the project for its September 23 cover.[7]

Richard Nash Gould, a New York architect, presented the concept to the Municipal Art Society, on September 19, Municipal Art Society chairman Philip K. Howard wrote to Mayor Rudy Giuliani, asking him "to consider placing two large searchlights near the disaster site, projecting their light straight up into the sky."[8]

After some consideration, it was decided to contact lighting experts in the field of high intensity light displays. A Las Vegas-based company, Light America, was chosen because of their vast knowledge of high intensity light displays. Gary Evans, the VP of Light America and Michael Burns the designer of the Tribute in Light, said that the company did testing of the lighting fixtures in the Las Vegas Valley before bringing the fixtures to the World Trade Center Site.

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.[9]

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, Fairfield County, Connecticut, Westchester County, Orange County, New York and Rockland County, New York. The beams have been clearly visible from 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 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.[10]

A permanent fixture of the Tribute in Light was at one point intended to be installed on the roof of One World Trade Center,[11][12] but it was not included in the finished design.[13]

Since 2008, the generators that power Tribute in Light have been fueled with biodiesel made from used cooking oil collected from local restaurants.[14]

Effects on birds[edit]

The light pollution from Tribute in Light has caused confusion for thousands of migrating birds, trapping them in the beams,[15] as a result of this effect, the lights are switched off for 20-minute periods to allow the birds to escape.[16] To ensure the lights do not affect migrating birds, the Municipal Art Society works with the New York City Audubon on the illumination.[17] A 2017 study on the effects of the installation on migrating birds found that the birds resumed their normal flight patterns after the installation was turned off.[15][18]

Media appearances[edit]

Tribute in Light has been featured in Boyz II Men's music video for "Color of Love". It also made a notable appearance during the opening credits of Spike Lee's 2002 film 25th Hour; in the Spider-Man 2 Video Game for Xbox, PlayStation 2 and GameCube, it appeared as a virtual memorial.[citation needed] The tribute, has also been seen, and referenced in the CBS show Blue Bloods.

See also[edit]

In 2011, as seen from the East Village.


  1. ^ a b Chan, Sewell (September 11, 2007). "Will Tribute in Light Go Dark After '08?". New York Times. Retrieved September 12, 2017. 
  2. ^ "Tribute in Light". The Municipal Art Society of New York. Retrieved September 12, 2017. 
  3. ^ Chaban, Matt. "The End of Tribute in Light: Memorial Goes Dark Forever on 9/12". Observer. Retrieved September 12, 2017. 
  4. ^ " "September 11th Tribute Lights Up Again". [dead link]
  5. ^ Dunlap, David W. (September 10, 2010). "'Tribute in Light' Will Keep Shining, This Year and the Next". New York Times. Retrieved September 11, 2010. 
  6. ^ Mann, Ted. "'Tribute' Handover". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved July 24, 1999.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  7. ^ "TRIBUTE IN LIGHT". Retrieved September 12, 2017. 
  8. ^ "Tribute In Light – The Municipal Art Society of New York". Archived from the original on August 25, 2010. Retrieved November 4, 2014. 
  9. ^ "Tribute in light to New York victims". BBC News. March 6, 2002. Retrieved April 27, 2008. 
  10. ^ Moran, Lee (September 8, 2011). "Twinkling tribute to the Twin Towers: World Trade Center rises in poignant pillars of light as New York makes final preparations for 9/11 anniversary". Daily Mail. London. 
  11. ^ "Freedom Tower rendering Time-lapse". Silverstein Properties Inc. Retrieved March 22, 2015. 
  12. ^ "SOM Freedom Tower Fact Sheet" (PDF). Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. Retrieved March 22, 2015. 
  13. ^ "Design changes to base, spire of 1 World Trade Center". Fox New York. Archived from the original on March 17, 2015. Retrieved March 22, 2015. 
  14. ^ Bevill, Kris (September 15, 2008). "Tri-State Biodiesel fuels Sept. 11 memorial". Biodiesel Magazine. Retrieved September 12, 2017. 
  15. ^ a b Doren, Benjamin M. Van; Horton, Kyle G.; Dokter, Adriaan M.; Klinck, Holger; Elbin, Susan B.; Farnsworth, Andrew (2017-10-02). "High-intensity urban light installation dramatically alters nocturnal bird migration". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: 201708574. doi:10.1073/pnas.1708574114. ISSN 0027-8424. 
  16. ^ Allen, Nick (September 15, 2010). "10000 birds trapped in Twin Towers memorial light". London: Daily Telegraph. Retrieved Sep 15, 2010. 
  17. ^ Laermer, Emily (August 18, 2011). "Tribute in Light seeks funders". Crain's. Retrieved August 22, 2011. 
  18. ^ Quenqua, Douglas (2017-10-02). "Yearly 9/11 Tribute Shows Light Pollution's Effects on Birds". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-10-03. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 40°42′39″N 74°00′52″W / 40.71096°N 74.01440°W / 40.71096; -74.01440