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Light Impresario Dials Up Wattage For Pentagon Display

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 10, 2006 – It takes a lot of electrical wattage to produce the 184 beams of light that are shooting skyward from the Pentagon’s center courtyard this evening.

“We just like to say it can be seen from miles away,” said Gary Evans, president of Limbic Group, the company that’s producing the light display as part of the Pentagon’s five-year-observance of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Evans has more than 15 years’ experience in the illumination business. His Las Vegas-based company has produced light shows for the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, as well as for National Football League games, including the Super Bowl.

Six portable diesel generators provide the electricity required to run the powerful halogen lamps used to create the Pentagon’s 184-beam display, Evans said.

The electricity, Evans said, is then channeled to 70 lamps placed at strategic locations within the Pentagon’s courtyard. He said they include: 20 lamps producing 10,000 watts each, 30 lamps, producing 8,000 watts each, and 20 lamps producing 7,000 watts each.

A Dallas-based company called Syncrolite manufactures the computer-controlled lamps used for the Pentagon light display, Evans said.

These high-powered lamps produce “a massive amount of light coming from the Pentagon courtyard area,” Evans said. The lamps are pretty hefty, he said, with each averaging about 400 pounds.

The 10,000-watt lamps produce white light only, Evans said, noting these “are made for power, only.” The 7,000- and 8,000-watt lamps also have full color capabilities through the use of gelatin-type filters to attain desired effects, he said.

Colored or not, light has an emotional effect on people, Evans said. In fact, the word “limbic” in his company’s name is taken from the medical term limbic system, which includes parts of the brain involved with emotion and emotional association with memory.

Limbic is derived from the Latin word, “limbus,” or arc, in English. Evans said his luminous light shows arc, or curve, across the evening sky.

“If you ask a hundred people, you’ll get possibly up to a hundred different answers,” Evans said, in explaining how observers react to his light shows. He said that’s perfectly normal. “That’s what light does. It evokes a lot of different feelings,” he said.

The Pentagon’s 184 beams of light should inspire and give comfort to those who’ve lost loved ones in the Sept. 11 attacks, Evans said. “It’s a memorial-type feel,” he said.

Evans said his company also produced a 32-day light show tribute held near “Ground Zero, the site of New York’s World Trade Center’s Twin Towers that were destroyed in the Sept. 11 attacks, that began March 11, 2002, six months after the attacks.

The combination of Sept. 11 survivors’ raw memories and the power of dramatic lights has caused emotionally charged reactions among observers of other events, he recalled.

“Everybody holds hands; they start crying,” Evans said. Even burly New York City fire fighters hugged each other and wept. “It evokes that kind of emotion from people,” he said.

However, “nothing will top this,” Evans said the Pentagon’s 9/11 light show before the event.

“When you have the opportunity to do something like this, it’s special,” he said.

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