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Sept 11 'Tribute in Light' Symbolizes Life, Spirit, Regeneration - 2002-03-12

For the next month, the New York skyline will glow at dusk with two tall columns of light, an image that resembles the fallen Twin Towers. The tribute in light honors the more than 2,800 people killed in the attack on the World Trade Center six months ago.

Twelve-year old Valerie Webb, whose father, police officer Nathaniel Webb, perished in the World Trade Center, illuminated the twin pillars of light.

The temporary memorial, set up next to the site of the disaster is a symbol of remembrance, half-a-year later.

The $500,000 project uses 88 powerful, 7,000-watt searchlights arranged near ground zero. They will shine between dusk and 11 p.m. through April 13. One of the project's creators, Paul Marantz, says the lights are designed to fill the void in the skyline, until a permanent memorial is built.

"The idea of light in our culture equals life, equals spirit and most especially, equals regeneration," he said. "While we are going to take a long time to contemplate what we may build as a physical memorial, it is a wonderful and by its very nature temporary and evanescent image for us to tide us over."

Some relatives of victims worried that the privately funded tribute honors the destroyed buildings, not the people who were killed. That is why the title was changed from "Towers of Light," to "Tribute in Light."

Concerns over air traffic and bird migration could affect the use of the high-powered searchlights, whose visibility during the next month will be dependent on the weather. Ideally, they can be seen from outer space and on the ground, from anywhere the Twin Towers were in view.

Another member of the creative team, Julian Laverdiere, says that gathering to look at the lights can contribute to the healing process. "I believe the light will help in very much the same way as the candlelight vigils, which almost spontaneously arose within that first week [and] helped very much. Because these are ceremonies in which people can all find their own meanings," he said.

The ceremony turning on the two columns of light followed a day of memorials. Moments of silence were observed at the exact times the hijacked planes rammed into the World Trade Center. And a damaged bronze and steel sculpture, which survived the attack, was unveiled, serving as a temporary centerpiece to remember the victims of September 11.