For the first time ever, the World Trade Center Memorial Plaza will be open to the general public on the night of 9/11 (tonight) after the official anniversary service paying homage to the over 3,000 lives lost in the attacks. In previous years, the area was closed to outside visitors on the day of the memorial services due to safety concerns related to the ongoing construction around Ground Zero. This year, although the site will be inaccessible to the public during the actual ceremony, the plaza will be open from 6 p.m. until midnight tonight for those wanting to pay their respects and view the Tribute in Light beams up close.

Tribute of Light, WTC, WTC memorial plaza, September 11, NYC, 9/11 remembrance ceremony

Due to safety and security concerns, the Memorial Plaza, which opened in 2011, had limited access for years, requiring security screening before visitation. However, since the opening of the underground Memorial Museum in May of this year, the organizers of the site now allow open access to those wanting to visit.

Related: Obama Dedicates September 11 Memorial Museum Before It Opens to the Public Next Week

As always, a private official ceremony will be held on the plaza on the morning of September 11th and will include a reading of the names of the nearly 3,000 people killed in the 2001 attacks. The announcement that visitors will now be able to come to the plaza on the day of the ceremony was made by Memorial President Joe Daniels and has special significance for friends and families of 9/11 victims who would like to view the evening tribute from a “meaningful vantage point.” The symbolic twin beams will shine almost four miles high from sunset on September 11th to dawn on the following day.

Via Crains New York

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All other images © Amanda Silvana Coen and Jill Fehrenbacher for Inhabitat