9/11 ‘Tribute in Light’ turns off for 20 minutes to save birds

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NEW YORK — Two beams of light pierced the sky after the sun went down in Manhattan tonight, an annual “Tribute in Light” to commemorate the September 11 terrorism attacks.

But around 9:30 p.m. the lights went out.

And it was all because of the birds.

According to the NYC Audubon Society, volunteers are on hand to save the birds trapped in the lights’ ambit. Several of the volunteers are those affected by 9/11.

The artificial light reportedly attracts birds and once captivated, the disorietned birds may crash into windows or spend hours circling.

Every time 1,000 birds or more are circling, they alert the Municipal Art Society of New York (or MASNY, the organization behind the display), which immediately turns off the lights for 20 minutes, giving birds a chance to clear the area.

“[Survivors] have told me the last thing they want from this memorial, which is so meaningful and beautiful…is for there to be more death on this spot,” says Debra Kriensky, a conservation biologist at New York City Audubon who helps organize the monitoring.

So when the lights go off tonight, remember — it’s to save the birds.