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NY police, firefighters save annual 9/11 Tribute in Light after cancellation by museum

The 'Tribute in Light' rises skyward on the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, September 11, 2019, in New York City. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images/TNS)

The city’s first responders came to the rescue again, saving New York’s annual 9/11 Tribute in Light from a coronavirus cancellation.

The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation will sponsor this year’s event, in which twin beams of light shine into the nighttime sky in memory of more than 2,600 people killed in the Sept. 11 attacks in New York.

“Because Tunnel to Towers is fully committed to the idea that we must never forget, the Foundation is doing everything in its power to make sure that the Towers of Light will once again be illuminated,” the Foundation said in a statement.

Frank Siller, the president of the Tunnel to Towers foundation, explained in an interview on WCBS/880 radio.

“We have already secured the lights, and by Monday or Tuesday we will have finished securing the location, which is right down by ground zero,” he said.

The 9/11 Memorial and Museum pulled out of the event on Thursday, citing the coronavirus pandemic.

Port Authority cops on Friday began pushing to move the spotlights to Port Authority property at the World Trade Center — and they got support from their colleagues in the city police and fire departments.

The lights — visible for miles around — pose no risk of violating social distancing rules, said Paul Nunziato, president of the Port Authority Police Benevolent Association.

“This COVID is the most demoralizing thing we’ve seen in a long time,” said Nunziato. “Not having the lights will double that affect. 9/11 is a solemn day for us. Why turn out the lights from the sky?”

The twin lights — which commemorate the twin towers of the World Trade Center complex destroyed on Sept. 11, 2001 — are usually placed atop the Battery Parking Garage on Morris Street from dusk Sept. 11 to dawn on Sept. 12.

Moving the lights to Port Authority property nearby would not take money out of the Port Authority’s pocket, Nunziato said.

The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation commemorates firefighter Stephen Siller, who carried 60 pounds of gear through the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel. He died in the towers’ collapse.

Nunziato said Mayor Bill de Blasio should have pushed the 9/11 Memorial to hold the light display as usual this year. “For all the nonsense the mayor has allowed in recent months, what is the problem with putting the lights up?” he said.

Neither the mayor’s office nor the 9/11 Memorial immediately returned calls for comment.

Staten Island Councilman Joe Borelli condemned the decision in a tweet and said he is coordinating with the head of the New York City Central Labor Council to find New Yorkers ready and willing to work on moving the tribute.

“There are men and women who would be honored to do the work of presenting the Tribute in Lights at the World Trade Center,” he said.

Borelli later tweeted the good news from the Tunnel to Towers foundation.

“They are getting the job done,” he said of the foundation. “The Tribute in Lights will happen!”

Uniformed Firefighters Association President Andrew Ansbro had questioned the cancellation of a tribute that shows New York’s strength and resilience after over 23,000 city residents have died of COVID-19.

“The Towers of Light have been, and will always be, a symbol showing that New York City and this country can not be kept down, and will stand strong and proud in the face of any tragedy or disaster,” Ansbro said.

“It shines to the heavens as a reminder of those we have lost. There has been no time where this message is more relevant and poignant.”


©2020 New York Daily News

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