There are possibly no more discordant pairings in our national history than the numbers 9/11 with the words gift shop and cafe. Yet this is what the eminent directors of the 9/11 Memorial Museum have decided to create at the museum built below the main plaza. There will be an admission fee of $24 for everyone but relatives of the victims, with appropriate discounts for seniors and students. Assuming that the museum fulfills its stated function of offering a somber history lesson for America and other nations, why would we want to discourage attendance by charging for it? Why would we want to sully the point of this visit by hawking souvenirs and refreshments? At a museum that is partly equivalent to visiting a killing field, the proper emotions we should be summoning are sorrow, anger, reflection and mourning.
A quick glance at the names of the Board members of the 9/11 Memorial reveals at least a dozen billionaires and many other multi-millionaires; other names are from the fields of politics and entertainment. Was it not possible for these people of means and influence to establish a partnership with the U.S. government to pay for the oversight of this national museum for at least the remainder of the 21rst century? Was the best approach to honoring the victims of the worst attack on American soil to sell memorabilia, coffee and danish to commemorate the experience? The plan for this project exudes insensitivity to its subject; it imposes crass commerce at a shrine to our deepest sorrow. Nothing on the scale of 9/11 has ever happened in our country before - we can only pray that we succeed in forestalling a future recurrence. In the meantime, we should treat the recorded history of this murder of 3,000 people by Islamic terrorists in the name of Allah with the same seriousness that we accord to revering the victims’ memories.
There is no entrance fee at the memorial site and museum at Pearl Harbor; there should be none at the site of 9/11. Surely the trustees of the memorial/museum can display a better understanding of their mission and refrain from any money-handling at this hallowed site.
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