Memorial Organizers Said Coronavirus Pandemic Puts Crew Members' Health At Risk

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The 9/11 Memorial and Museum canceled its iconic Tribute In Light this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. But, many families are fighting to save it, CBS2’s Ali Bauman reported Friday.

The twin beams of light can be seen from a 60-mile radius around Lower Manhattan.

Production crews work around the clock for weeks to set it up, but this year the memorial’s organizers said the pandemic puts the crew’s health at risk.

MORE: 9/11 Tribute In Light Canceled Due To Coronavirus Fears

Payton and Avery Wall were just 2- and 4-year-old when their father, Glen Wall, died in the September 11 terror attacks.

“He was just the funniest guy that everyone loved, and he loved taking care of us,” said Payton.

Each September, they see the Tribute in Light memorial, honoring the fallen towers and lives lost, all the way from their home in New Jersey.

“It’s such a beautiful sight and the fact that they’re not going to be shining over New York City this year, it’s just unfathomable,” she said.


The National 9/11 Memorial and Museum issued a statement saying, in part, they decided to cancel the event, “after concluding the health risks during the pandemic were far too great for the large crew required.”

Justine Cuccia was pregnant and living in Battery Park 19 years ago.

“I’m a cancer survivor of 9/11 and people are dying and getting sick every day still,” she said.

She says even though the Tribute in Light brings painful memories, she is hopeful to see it continue this year.

“I will tell you, PTSD comes back in full strength when I see the lights, but they still are a reminder and it’s important,” Cuccia said.

“There is similar work being done all over New York City with electricians, with stagehands, with event lighting companies,” said City Councilman Joe Borelli, who’s part of a group of council members that reached out to the White House for support.

Borelli says if construction can continue in New York, then so should this tribute.

“We have workers here in New York that would love to do this work, that would be honored to do this work,” he said.

The memorial and museum said nearly 40 stagehands typically work in close proximity to produce the installation, which organizers said does not align with COVID-19 safety precautions.

This year, in lieu of the iconic tribute, buildings across the city will light their facades blue.

“There are a lot of fancy people on the board of this museum and if they want to show their real stature in New York, they should figure out a way to make this thing happen,” said Borelli.

Last month, the memorial and museum said this year’s ceremony would not include a live, in-person reading of names.

LINK: Supporters started a petition to save the 9/11 Tribute In Light

The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, which is sponsored by CBS2, is organizing its own ceremony adjacent to Ground Zero for 9/11 families. The foundation is now promising to shine its own lights, as well.

“We’ve already secured lights and we’re already working on a location,” said Frank Siller, CEO of the foundation. “We’re gonna make sure we read the names and that we have those lights up there for America to see.”

If those plans fall through, the Sergeants Benevolent Association, as well as the mayor of Middletown, New Jersey, have also offered to host this year’s memorial to make sure the lights go on no matter what.

MORE: Tunnel To Towers Foundation To Hold Its Own 9/11 Ceremony With Live Name Reading

Meantime, the Wall sisters hope the Tribute in Light can still go on, even though one tradition was already canceled.

Payton said, “If the names aren’t gonna happen the way they usually do, just please keep the lights. It’s just so beautiful and so important and really special to us.”

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  1. Jim says:

    Your reporting just now on this was not very rigorous. Disappointing, because I usually find your reporting quite reliable.

    The challenge in getting Towers of Light up and running is that the company that created and operates the mechanism of the light show is an Italian company. The crew of 30 or so who must be here for weeks to get the show up and then down would have trouble getting visas to come here because of the pandemic. And at a minimum, they would all have to quarantine for 14 days before they could do any work.

    All the noice and whining about the cancellation that you put into this reporting REALLY should have been balanced against those hard realities.

    Like I say, disappointing.

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