Tribute in Light

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In 2014, as seen from Bayonne, New Jersey. Here, the Tribute in Light is not located on the former site of the Twin Towers, but is projected from further south in Manhattan, as indicated by the One World Trade Center's placement at left.
In 2010, as seen from Brooklyn.
In 2009, as seen from the ProPublica office on One Exchange Plaza.

The Tribute in Light is an art installation of 88 searchlights placed next to the site of the World Trade Center to create two vertical columns of light in remembrance of the September 11 attacks. It is produced annually by the Municipal Art Society of New York.

The two beams cost approximately $1,626 (assuming $0.11 kWh) to run for 24 hours. There are 88 xenon spotlights (44 for each tower) which each consume 7,000 watts.[1]


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 2013, it has been repeated every year on September 11. It had been announced that 2008 would be its final year,[2] but the tribute was continued in 2009.[3]

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.[4] 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.[5]


Those working on the project came up with the concept in the week following the attack. On September 13, 2001, the idea was presented to executives of Consolidated Edison, the electric utility company serving New York City, by John Englehart, then president of the brand innovation firm Arnell Group [6] 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 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 could 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 were 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 to be installed on the roof of One World Trade Center,[11][12] but never was due to the Durst Organization who redesigned the spire, which did not include the permanent fixture of Tribute in Light.[13]

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

The lights have caused confusion for thousands of migrating birds, trapping them in the beams, and requiring that the lights be switched off for 20-minute periods to allow the birds to escape.[15] To ensure the lights do not affect migrating birds, the Municipal Art Society works with the New York City Audubon on the illumination.[16]

Media appearances[edit]

The "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]

See also[edit]

In 2011, as seen from the East Village.


  1. ^
  2. ^ Chan, Sewell (2007-09-11). "Will Tribute in Light Go Dark After ’08?". New York Times. Retrieved May 26, 2010. 
  3. ^ " "September 11th Tribute Lights Up Again". 
  4. ^ Dunlap, David W. (2010-09-10). "‘Tribute in Light’ Will Keep Shining, This Year and the Next". New York Times. Retrieved Sep 11, 2010. 
  5. ^ Mann, Ted. "'Tribute' Handover". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 24 July 2012. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Tribute in Light". Retrieved 4 November 2014. 
  8. ^ "Tribute In Light – The Municipal Art Society of New York". Retrieved 4 November 2014. 
  9. ^ "Tribute in light to New York victims". BBC News. March 6, 2002. Retrieved 2008-04-27. 
  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 22 March 2015. 
  12. ^ "SOM Freedom Tower Fact Sheet" (PDF). Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. Retrieved 22 March 2015. 
  13. ^ "Design changes to base, spire of 1 World Trade Center". Fox New York. Retrieved 22 March 2015. 
  14. ^ "Tri-State Biodiesel fuels Sept. 11 memorial". Retrieved 2009-09-11. 
  15. ^ Allen, Nick (2010-09-15). "10000 birds trapped in Twin Towers memorial light". London: Daily Telegraph. Retrieved Sep 15, 2010. 
  16. ^ Laermer, Emily (2011-08-18). "Tribute in Light seeks funders". Crain's. Retrieved August 22, 2011. 

External links[edit]

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