Empire State Building Flashes Siren Red to Honor Emergency Responders Fighting Coronavirus Pandemic

On Monday night, the Empire State Building in New York City began flashing a red siren from its peak in honor of the first responders dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. It was meant to mimic the sight of a red ambulance light, in order to honor the doctors, nurses and other medical staff fighting the virus. The sight was a beacon of hope to some, but confusing to others.

The right light began flashing on Monday night in New York — a foggy, gloomy evening. Many were alarmed when they first saw it, either in real life or on social media. It was took some time for an official statement from the building's owners to circulate, explaining that the light was intended to represent a "heartbeat."

"The Empire State Building has always served as an international symbol of hope, of challenges overcome, and of New York City itself," said Empire State Realty Trust CEO Anthony E. Malkin, according to a report by USA Today.

At first glance, some thought the light might be the signal for an even greater emergency, on top of the health crisis already facing New York. Others guessed that it was a symbolic gesture, but were still put off by it — tweeting that it was too "on the nose," or other criticisms.

"I fully support the intention of this effort by the [Empire State Building,] but recommend that the siren be replaced by the iconic pulsing heartbeat effect to reassure our heroic healthcare workers that their efforts will succeed, and soothe nervous New Yorkers now sheltering in place," tweeted writer Rita J. King.

Still, plenty of others were thankful, saying that the light seemed like a unifying force in these otherwise lonely times. Many took the siren as a sign of New York's unity through the COVID-19 crisis.

According to Empire State Realty, the light show will continue each night through Thursday. The lights will sync up with the song "Empire State of Mind" by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys, as it is considered a New York City anthem.

"We'll never stop shining for you," the Empire State Building Twitter account vowed on Monday.

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New York is now considered the epicenter of the outbreak, with a over 38,000 confirmed cases and 900 deaths as of Tuesday morning. The numbers are expected to continue rising in the state as more testing becomes available, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo is still calling on the federal government for more aid.

For the latest information on the coronavirus pandemic, visit the CDC's website.