Pressured by politicians and public-safety unions, red-faced 9/11 Memorial leaders reversed course Saturday and said they’ll go ahead with this year’s Tribute in Lights commemoration of the Sept. 11 attacks.
The change came two days after the 9/11 Memorial and Museum called off the display over coronavirus concerns — and a day after the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation launched an effort to save this year’s event.
“In the last 24 hours we’ve had conversations with many interested parties and believe we will be able to stage the tribute in a safe and appropriate fashion,” 9/11 Memorial and Museum President and CEO Alice M. Greenwald said in a statement on Saturday.
A factor in the change was a decision by former Mayor Mike Bloomberg to help fund the display. The display also won backing from the state and the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation.
After the issue hit the front page of the Daily News on Saturday, Memorial brass apparently reached out for help from Bloomberg — who chairs its board — as well as Gov. Cuomo.
Bloomberg and Cuomo came through.
“The Tribute in Light (is) a powerful symbol of New York’s recovery after 9/11,” Bloomberg said. “I am pleased that once again it will shine this year.”
A spokeswoman for the Memorial did not immediately answer questions about how much money Bloomberg agreed to pay
Cuomo said the state will provide health and supervisory personnel needed to make the event safe amid the pandemic.
“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,” Cuomo wrote on Twitter.
“The twin towers of light … are a visual representation of #NewYorkTough,” he added, using his slogan for the state’s resilience in the face of the pandemic.
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Each year starting on the evening of Sept. 11, twin beams of light shine into the nighttime sky in memory of more than 2,600 people killed in the 9/11 terror attacks in New York.
The 9/11 Memorial and Museum, which has run the event in the past, scrapped it on Thursday, citing the coronavirus pandemic and financial pressures.
After the cancellation, city first responders teamed up with the Tunnel to Towers Foundation to rescue this year’s event. Frank Siller, the foundation’s president, said Friday his group had secured the lights for the display, and was on track to find a place to put them in lower Manhattan.
It was unclear Saturday how the 9/11 Memorial’s announcement will affect the Tunnel to Towers plan.
The coronavirus pandemic has dwarfed the human and even economic devastation caused by the terror attacks on the World Trade Center. More than 32,000 New Yorkers have died from coronavirus, more than 10 times the death toll of 9/11.
“The virus has taken so much and so many,” Cuomo said. “But now the tribute will continue.”