Is the 9/11 Memorial Museum a place for Americans to mourn and pay respect to the fallen — or a place to commercialize and generate revenue? That’s the question pundits are asking this weekend, as the New York Post reported on the “crass and insensitive” gift shop at the commemorative museum. The shop includes a variety of souvenir goods including caps, shirts, toys, and jewelry.
“I honestly don’t think it’s appropriate — selling scarves to commercialize the deaths of 3,000 people,” said Republican Brooklyn state Sen. Martin Golden. “I don’t think it’s right.”
The museum alone charges a steep (even for Manhattan) $24 admission fee, but the prices of the articles at the gift shop have completely people baffled. The controversial boutique has a “memorial” scarf with a picture of the Twin Towers on it, selling for $95. Some books and charms are selling at more than $60 a pop.
Golden went on to say, “It’s adding insult to injury to charge $24. And then to have these types of items being sold for profit is just wrong.”
The concern is mostly about profit being made off of the suffering of the thousands of 9/11 victims and their relatives. Family members of those killed on 9/11 feel as though the museum is some kind of cheap roadside attraction for tourists.
“To me, it’s the crassest, most insensitive thing to have a commercial enterprise at the place where my son died,” said Diane Horning, whose 26-year-old son Matthew’s remains were never recovered after the attacks. “I think it’s a money-making venture to support inflated salaries, and they’re willing to do it over my son’s dead body.”
The memorial’s CEO, Joe Daniels, made a statement about the proceeds of the entrance fee and the gift shop, which he says go toward the “developing and sustaining” of the museum. He also mentioned that due to the museum not being funded by the city or the state, they also rely on private fund-raising and “gracious donations.”
Some visitors’ responses have been quite joyful. For those who were not directly affected by the national disaster, they say that being able to own something that reminds them of the victims is their way of paying respect. Mary Wilkins, of Nebraska, felt that buying a keepsake from the shop made her feel like she helped support the victims’ families.
Whatever the case may be, the museum, as well as the gift shop, open up to the public on Wednesday, May 21st. The memorial should be just that, a memorial to celebrate the lives of those lost that day — and a place where family members can re-connect with their fallen loved ones.