Each September 11 that I have been in New York since 2001, I have gone out to stand at my corner at 9:02 AM as I was that day looking 14 blocks down Church street. And in the evening I try to get as close to the source of the Towers of Light, designed by artists Julian LaVerdiere and Paul Myoda, (and now re-titled “Tribute in Light” because victims’ families felt the original title emphasized the buildings and not the people. However the original title is how I think of the piece, whose original project title was “Phantom Towers”). This work is one of the greatest public memorial artworks, whose eventual elimination after September 11, 2011, will be yet another loss. Of the lights I wrote, in an unpublished addition to my text “Wishful Thinking” published in Architectural Record online on September 11, 2003, in which I imagined various suitable memorials other than the one that is being built:
“The Towers of Light, […] The most perfect memorial of all, they have appeared just once a year, like the town of Brigadoon once a century, to reveal the flickering spirits of the dead, in the guise of moths, bats, and birds hypnotically drawn in and yet lost within the immaterial beams of light that only stop at the limits of human vision, vertiginously swirling up to infinity, at the limit of the night sky. By September 11, 2006, New York City’s unregulated building boom and a blind bureaucracy had pushed them further and further to the margins of the city, above a parking garage below Rector Street, away from the crowd of the living who had milled around their base in earlier years when they were placed on West Street and Chambers, a crowd that would grow almost mystically festive, linked together by awe and wonderment.
Now the Freedom Tower is rising above ground, its first floors are almost solid structure, every structural support element appears to be at least triplicated, it will eventually rise into a glass spire but now it is a bunker, an emblem of a practical application of fear.