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9/11 Museum visitors critical of entry fee, commercialization

A pipe and drums band plays as members

A pipe and drums band plays as members of the public wait in line to enter the National September 11 Memorial Museum on the first day the museum opened on May 21, 2014. Credit: Charles Eckert

New Yorkers offered mixed reviews after seeing the personal belongings and hearing the voices of those killed in the Twin Towers collapse or those who survived -- all exhibited in the National September 11 Memorial Museum, which opened to the public Wednesday.

An array of opinions were expressed, from an Arab-American who believes the word Islamist used to recount the 2001 terrorist attack that killed nearly 3,000 people and its religious connection is offensive, to others who see a "beautiful" building paying tribute but cannot ignore the shadows of commercialization: from $24 admission to coffee-mug souvenirs.

"I think they did a good job," said Brook Mecham, 34, of Manhattan, who took the morning off from work. "It was peaceful inside but emotionally hard to listen to the voices of the people who tried to get help or who were trapped."

Damaris Rodriguez, 61, of Jackson Heights, who did not visit the souvenir shop and called the museum tickets "pricey," said she came on the first day because "I wanted to look for peace and see how other people were healing."

Instead, she said she relived the day and "remembered those firemen who went up the towers with their equipment knowing that they may not return, or that they could not do anything to rescue people . . . that is still hard to accept."

"It's a rough exhibit," said Alana Gilkerson, 67, a retired St. John's University administrator from Staten Island. "I couldn't stay any longer than an hour. It was too cold and steel-like inside."

Joe Tata, 48, of Yonkers brought his two daughters, Gianna, 11, and Sophia, 10. "I wanted them to come and get an understanding of 9/11. They hear so much about it, they can now see something to explain its history. My only concern is the $24 [admission price]. The museum should not be making money. Any money made should go to the families."

Museum tickets for the public opening were free. They had to be reserved online and were gone quickly. The new museum sits next to the National September 11 Memorial, depicting the footprints of where the Twin Towers once stood and are now represented by cascading waterfalls. The perimeter of each waterfall has the names of all those who perished.

To dedicate the opening, museum officials unfurled an American flag recovered from the ruins, which will be part of the exhibit. The tattered, burned flag was stitched back together using patches of retired flags. The flag traveled to all 50 states and was sewn back together by Americans who also suffered tragic disasters, such as the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 and the Columbine High School shooting massacre of 1999.

Joe Daniels, president and chief executive of the museum, said 42,000 people visited during its dedication period, which was open to 9/11 families, first responders and residents from May 15 to Tuesday.


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