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Patriotic light display planned for top of Pittsburgh's Koppers Tower

Bob Bauder
| Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018, 10:51 p.m.
The top of Koppers Towers will be illuminated with red, white and blue lighting Thursday night as a salute to veterans and the American flag.
The top of Koppers Towers will be illuminated with red, white and blue lighting Thursday night as a salute to veterans and the American flag.

The top of the landmark Koppers Tower in Downtown Pittsburgh will be illuminated with red, white and blue lighting starting Thursday night as a salute to veterans and the American flag.

The National Flag Foundation, which is headquartered in the 34-story Koppers Tower, partnered with the Steelers, the Penguins and building owner Rugby Realty to honor veterans and the flag with the light display that will continue for most of the weekend. It is part of a broader salute that will happen 50 nights a year in the years to come on days of national significance such as the Fourth of July and Sept. 11, the foundation said.

“The idea is that when people drive into the city and see the skyline, we want them to wonder why it’s lit. We want them to say, ‘Well, it’s Veterans Day today.’ We want those days to be memorialized,” said Romel L. Nicholas, who chairs the National Flag Foundation’s board.

“Indeed, it honors the veterans. It honors the military, but it’s also educational-based,” Nicholas said, adding the tribute will be an educational reminder of the flag’s importance.

The salute Thursday will begin before the 8:20 p.m. start of the Steelers’ home game against the Carolina Panthers.

The Steelers have scheduled a “Salute to Service” before the start of the game, in which the team will celebrate the flag foundation’s anniversary and honor local veterans who have recently returned from deployment.

The Penguins have scheduled a similar program before their game at PPG Paints Arena on Saturday night.

Videos produced by the foundation that promote the flag will be aired at both games.

The patriotic display won’t be visible Friday night. The top of Koppers Tower will be illuminated blue that night as part of a broader effort to turn the skyline that color to honor those killed and injured in the Tree of Life Congregation synagogue massacre on Oct. 27. It will go back to the stars and stripes Saturday through Monday in honor of Veterans Day.

The nonprofit National Flag Foundation is celebrating its 50th anniversary of promoting the flag and educating people about its history and traditions. It moved into Koppers Tower in June and is in the process of establishing a virtual visitors center on the ground floor. The center will display videos about the flag and flag exhibits.

Larry Walsh, CEO of Rugby Realty, said the company recently installed an array of 96 LED lights atop the building. The top has been bathed in blue along with the Gulf Tower, also owned by Rugby, over the past week in remembrance of the Tree of Life victims.

“We will be lighting the roof red, white and blue for various patriotic holidays throughout the year, starting with Veterans Day this weekend,” he said. “For this special occasion, we’re actually projecting stars from the Gulf Tower to the very top of the roof.”

The flag foundation is asking Pittsburghers to take photos of the illuminated tower this weekend and post them to social media with the hashtag #NationalFlagFoundation or upload them to the foundation’s website at nationalflag foundation.org.

“The initiative is to try and bring the country together,” Nicholas said. “At a time where the country is divided, we can be a bridge.”

Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-765-2312, bbauder@tribweb.com or via Twitter @bobbauder.

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