New York’s World Trade Center Lights Up in India’s Tricolor to Commemorate 75th Independence Day
- Along with the spire and podium of the iconic establishment, two other buildings in midtown Manhattan also had the imprint of the nation’s flag.
Iconic New York City landmarks including One World Trade Center were lit in the Indian tricolor on Aug. 15, on the occasion of India’s 75th Independence Day. The initiative was spearheaded by the South Asian Engagement Foundation in association with The Durst Organization, which builds, owns and manages premier office towers and buildings in Manhattan.
South Asian Engagement Foundation founder Rahul Walia told American Kahani that along with the spire and podium of the One World Trade Center, the Durst buildings at One Bryant Park and One Five One, in midtown were also be lit up in the tricolor.
This initiative is one more way we wanted to make our presence felt,” says Walia. Noting that “there have been glimpses of other buildings and other things that happened,” Walia says that the World Trade Center “hasn’t been used for any such purposes in the past. It is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere and having them acknowledge the vast community of Indian Americans would be a statement worldwide.”
“The World Trade Center is iconic for everybody,” Walia says. “It means so many things to so many people, Indian Americans included,” he adds. “For those Indian Americans and families who lost loved ones on 9/11 as well as to Indian Americans who came after [the attacks], for whom this [building] is an epitome of success and achievement and aspiration. So when that building acknowledges your presence, not only to you but to the world, it will start the conversation about the impact Indian Americans make.”
Adding the two other midtown buildings “makes this canvas larger than life,” Walia says, adding that the Manhattan skyline is “literally going to be tricolored.” The Federation of Indian Associations of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut (FIA-Tristate) has been instrumental in lighting the Empire State building in India’s tricolor for several years now.
Walia founded the nonprofit three years ago “to continuously support civic engagement and educational initiatives within the Indian American community.”
Speaking of the genesis of the foundation, Walia, who also founded the South Asian Spelling Bee, says the platform was able “to get a certain amount of exposure in the mainstream as a community.” Thus Walia realized the importance of funding to sustain that visibility. “I wouldn’t want to rely on corporate funding or commercial funding all the time, so we founded the SAEF,” he says. Walia then made the spelling bee part of SAEF and “now it is totally funded by the foundation.”
Commemorating events like India’s Independence Day as well as other major holidays and festivals is a good way to gain visibility and highlight the achievements of the community. “While we do a lot of things within our community, the acknowledgment and recognition of being part of the fabric of Americana is a struggling and a challenging process,” Walia says.
SAEF is also in talks to do a Diwali expression in November to bring more awareness and exposure to India’s rich and diverse culture.