Each year millions of people gather in Times Square and around their televisions to watch the famous ball drop as a symbol of the beginning of the New Year. On Dec. 31, 2001, this ritual took on a whole new meaning as spectators looked to 2002 to bring closure and peace after the tragic events of 9/11.
The event organizers felt the weight of this responsibility and came up with a new look for the ball that both honored the past year’s solemn events and the confidence in the upcoming year’s future. Appropriately called Hope for Healing, the new design replaced all 504 crystals of the 1,070-pound ball with triangles engraved with tallies of the presumed dead and the countries, rescue squads and flights of the victims to honor those lost. The tallies were estimates, reflecting the incomplete knowledge even months after the terrorist attacks.
President of Countdown Entertainment and orchestrator of the 2001 celebration Jeffrey Strauss told CNN, “ gonna see New York City and America standing tall, united, determined to celebrate our future, here in Times Square.”
The festivities began with bells tolling throughout the city while the ball was hoisted into place. In his final act as mayor, Rudy Giuliani ushered in the New Year at 11:59 p.m. by pushing the button to illuminate the crystal ball as 500,000 onlookers in Times Square cheered.
In 2011, the collection of engraved crystal triangles from the 2001 ball was donated to the museum by the crystal fabricators. They are currently on view in the Tribute Walk display of the museum. This artifact sent a message to a global audience that both this city and this country were rebounding from tragedy and looking toward a new year with renewed hope.
By Emily Edwards, 9/11 Memorial Collections and Exhibitions Coordinator