Exclusive Update: Museum Responds to Criticism Over 'Unacceptable': Decision to Cancel 9/11 Memorial

Posted: Aug 14, 2020 10:35 AM
Exclusive Update: Museum Responds to Criticism Over 'Unacceptable': Decision to Cancel 9/11 Memorial

Source: AP Photo/Craig Ruttle

UPDATE: The 9/11 Memorial & Museum responded to a request for further information by Townhall by reaffirming that their choice is based on the safety of the stagehands who would be involved in the installation. Also in their statement, the museum said that the choice to cancel the memorial "underscores the far-reaching consequences of the global health crisis," and referred to COVID-19 as a pandemic that "continues to surge throughout the country."

But in New York, the cases of COVID-19 have dropped to the extent that further relaxation of shutdowns and restrictions were warranted. On Friday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that museums and other activity entities like bowling alleys would be allowed to reopen in a limited capacity. 

The museum did not say whether this announcement by Cuomo would change their decision about canceling the annual tribute to the thousands of victims of the 9/11 terrorist attack. 

Due to impacts of COVID-19, the 9/11 Memorial & Museum and Michael Ahern Production Services (MAPS) made the very difficult decision to not move forward with Tribute in Light this year. This year’s cancellation stems from health and safety concerns and underscores the far-reaching consequences of the global health crisis. 

As the pandemic continues to surge throughout the country, it was necessary to consider the health and safety of the nearly 40 stagehands who work in close proximity to produce Tribute in Light. For multiple weeks in August and September, crew members work hours-long shifts at Battery Parking Garage to prepare for the production on the night of September 11.The facilities and the complex installation which requires stagehands to work closely together do not align with recommended COVID-19 health and safety precautions.   

ORIGINAL STORY: On Thursday evening, the 9/11 Memorial & Museum announced that they would not be assembling the annual light installation, 'Tribute in Lights' at the Ground Zero memorial in downtown Manhattan. The powerful illuminated memorial first lit the night sky six months after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, as an homage to the fallen Twin Towers and to pay tribute to 3,000 lost lives. It has been reassembled every September since the attacks, reminding the millions who can view the powerful lights of tragedy and loss as well as the subsequent American resilience. 

The Museum says that the light installation this year will not happen because the dozens of workers needed to assemble the memorial would be too at risk of infection from COVID-19. 

"Tribute in Light, the world’s beloved twin beams of light, will not shine over lower Manhattan as part of this year’s 9/11 commemoration," The Museum said via their website. "This incredibly difficult decision was reached in consultation with our partners after concluding the health risks during the pandemic were far too great for the large crew required to produce the annual Tribute in Light. We hope to resume this iconic tribute for the 20th anniversary." 

The Museum went on to say that they would go forward instead with a "Tribute in Lights" that would involve buildings throughout Manhattan lit up in commemoration. Earlier in the pandemic, the Museum announced that it would not go forward with the annual tradition of hosting victim family members at Ground Zero to read the list of names of those killed in the terrorist attack. This year, they said, they'd use previously recorded readings from prior events. 

The claim by the Museum that the installation would be too dangerous for the workers involved in its construction drew immediate excoriation online from those who simply didn't understand the weak excuse for canceling such an important memorial, particularly as city mayor Bill de Blasio has championed anti-police protests and commissioned the painting of five "Black Lives Matter" murals in each borough. That effort involved several dozen city workers and volunteers in close proximity to accomplish.

Several Twitter users even volunteered to install the lights themselves if the workers were in danger. 

Others noted the risk taken on by first responders and volunteers, and the illness that followed.

But mostly, people anticipating the strong visual gesture that has loomed over the Manhattan skyline for nearly two decades were simply disgusted with the choice to not go forward. Fox News contributor Geraldo Rivera slammed the choice to cancel the memorial, calling it an obvious political stunt and attempt to further blame President Trump for the devastating impact of the Wuhan coronavirus. 

"You could put 20 people in hazmat suits if you had to," Rivera said. 

A request for comment by Townhall regarding the severe backlash to their decision has not yet been answered by Chairman of the Board of Directors Michael Bloomberg.