Of Birds & Beams

Migratory Birds Get Lost
Within 9/11 Twin Beams

From a distance, it looked like silver confetti. Or shredded paper from a ticker tape parade. But it turned out to be 10,000 trapped birds that momentarily had lost their sense of direction. The “Tribute of Light,” those two beams of light that are lit every Sept. 11 since 2002, are powerful statements and a poetic remembrance of the fallen Twin Towers.
They’re also a threat to migratory birds on their way to Canada or the Caribbean and this year, as it happened in 2004, they had to be turned off five times, to allow the travelers to resume their flight. Sept. 11 and bird migration rarely coincide, but when they do, it’s enough of a reason for New York’s Municipal Art Society to turn off the lights for 20 minutes at a time.
An estimated 90,000 birds die each year after becoming disorientated by lights and crashing into skyscrapers in New York as they migrate south for the winter, according to conservationist groups. Judging by the number of new glass-clad buildings popping up in Manhattan lately, this number may certainly increase.
The evocative beams of light, though, will soon be exonerated of any responsibility for delays and bird fatalities in Ground Zero during the annual migration. This dubious honor will be transfered to several new, shiny skyscrapers, yet to be built soon all over the area.

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