Remembering Hero Highway
Soon after the Sept. 11 attacks, the West Side Highway became known as “Hero Highway” after crowds lined the road cheering and waving banners as thousands of rescue and recovery workers traveled to ground zero.
Six months after the Twin Towers fell, they returned in the form of two blue beams of light illuminating the Manhattan skyline. Since then, they have lit the sky annually as a Sept. 11 commemoration known as Tribute in Light. The tradition will continue this year to remember the 14th anniversary of the attacks.
Tribute in Light first debuted on March 11, 2002 in a vacant lot across from ground zero on West Street. Now, the 88 high-powered light bulbs, which are assembled in two 48-foot squares to echo the footprints of the original towers, are illuminated from the roof of a lower Manhattan parking garage. The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation funded the tribute to ensure it would begin on the six-month anniversary of the attacks, and continued to support it for years to follow.
The beams reach four miles into the sky and at 7,000 watts, are the most powerful shafts of light ever projected from Earth. On a clear night, Tribute in Light is visible within a 60-mile radius.
The world renowned public art piece was conceived by a team of artists and architects, including Gustavo Bonevardi and John Bennett. It serves as a memorial to the 2,983 people who were killed, the two 110-story buildings that once defined the Manhattan skyline, and a tribute to those who helped the city through the difficult time after the attacks.
"It triggers a whole host of feelings and memories, and the things you aspire to that are without conflict and without aggravation. It's symbolic of survival and carrying on,” said events producer Michael Ahern in a Daily News article.
The tribute will light the sky beginning at dusk on 9/11, with periods of testing several evenings before. The 9/11 Memorial Museum invites the public to observe this special tribute from the Memorial plaza, which will be open from 3 p.m. until midnight.
By Jenny Pachucki, 9/11 Memorial Content Strategist