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The rain cannot keep visitors away from the 9/11 Museum

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The high ticket price, upcoming food service, and gift shop have not kept visitors away from the much-discussed and somewhat controversial 9/11 Memorial and Museum, according to reports in The New York Times and New York Post today on the museum's second day open to the public (May 22). In the defense of a gift shop and restaurant I would have to say that visitors have to eat and they want to take home a reminder of their visit in terms of a souvenir. As to the high price of admission, it has not deterred visitors because they feel the merit of what they will experience within the museum's hallowed walls. Also despite the rain, the media reports brisk business by visitors at the ticket window and store.

"Mary Larson and her family had come to New York City from Erie, Pa., this week for her son’s graduation. Marlena and Edgar Dupre had flown in from San Antonio to board a cruise. Peter and Kirsten Abitz, from Denmark, were on vacation, as was Linda Christeaen from Belgium. The 40 or so students at Greenwich High School in Connecticut had taken a bus down for the day thanks in part to money raised by the PTA," added The Times today. "They all spent the morning at the National September 11 Memorial Museum on Thursday, the first day that the museum, after a week of previews and sponsored free admission, was open for paying customers."

"Most had heard the continuing stream of complaints: The admission price of as much as $24; the inclusion of a shop and cafe inside; the location of victims’ unidentified remains at the site; the decision to host a gathering there on Tuesday night for donors," added The Times.

"But as they emerged from the museum onto the rainy memorial plaza, visitors primarily wanted to talk about how impressed and moved they were," added the report.

“It was well worth our time and money,” said Ms. Dupre, who paid the $18 admission fee for seniors, added The Times. According to the article her husband carried out of the gift shop experience "a black plastic bag with three T-shirts for their grandchildren and a pin bought for a friend who is a firefighter back in Texas."

“The people that come here, they want to give something,” Ms. Dupre said to The Times, referring to the revenue generated by the museum store.

Jerry and Cyndy Mason, from Surprise, Ariz. believed that commerce was essential to staying open in this economy. “How else are they going to maintain it?” said Ms. Mason, who bought a $22 T-shirt. “Those who oppose it will also be the first to complain if something fails because of lack of maintenance,” added The Times.

"Unlike the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the National Gallery in Washington, which offer free admission, the September 11 museum receives no federal financing to cover any of its estimated $63 million yearly operating budget," said Michael Frazier, a museum spokesman to The Times.

"Nor does it receive money from the state or the city. The museum does get bills, however. Utilities are expected to run about $7.5 million a year; security costs $10 million, while nearly $4 million is earmarked for the collections and exhibitions. Private fund-raising is expected to cover about 30 percent of the total; the rest must be earned from ticket and retail sales," according to Mr. Frazier to The Times. For more on this story visit http://www.nytimes.com.

The lure of the gift shop still attracts

According NY Post, "many visitors to the 9/11 museum couldn’t resist the lure of the gift shop — shelling out money Wednesday for T-shirts, trinkets and books about the tragic day. British tourist Keith Roach, 55, bought a $5 lanyard that said “9/11 Memorial” to hold his work ID," added The Post. “Were going to Orlando. I was going to buy one at Disney, but this made more sense,” he said to the newspaper.

He and his wife, Della, 52, also bought two books about the tragedy. “9/11 Ordinary People: Extraordinary Heroes,’’ for $18.99, and “From the Inside Out: Harrowing Escapes from the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center,’’ for $19.95, plus a $25 bracelet with an American flag," added The Post.

East Village resident Sean Starks, 24, purchased a couple of $22 T-shirts with images of the Twin Towers and the words, “In darkness we shine brightest,” as well as a 9/11 Memorial mug for $10.95 and six 9/11 pencils for $4.95," according to the feature story.

“I was trying to find things that have a connection to 9/11, rather than just earrings and things that have no connection,” he said to The Post. But other visitors were appalled by the commercial aspects of the museum store. “As rotten and heartless as it may seem, it’s always about money,” said James Kristan, 57, of Kentwood, Michigan to The Post.

“Educational books and T-shirts and posters that say, ‘Never forget 9/11’ are OK, but the dog vests and the cheap earrings need to go,” he added to The Post.

“It’s hard to corporatize something that is essentially a cemetery,” New York visitor Rain Dubilewski said to the newspaper. “I think it’s an insult to families,” Medina said to The Post. “I don’t think you should profit from anything going on down here.”

"A fee of $24 for adults and $15 for students 7 through 17 is not out of line with what other museums in New York and elsewhere charge. The Museum of Modern Art, for instance, charges $25 for an adult and $14 for students. The American Museum of Natural History charges $22 for adults and $12.50 for children under 13. Special films and exhibits, like the Hayden Planetarium Space Show, are an additional cost," added The Post.

Food service is coming this summer

"The menu is expected to offer “an array of local, seasonal fare in a relaxing and comfortable environment,” according a notice in the official museum guide," added the article. The Post added: "The Pavilion Cafe, run by Danny Meyer’s Union Square Events, is scheduled to open this summer inside the National September 11 Memorial & Museum — a move overlooked when museum officials took media and VIPs through the grounds last week.

"The September 11 museum does offer free admission Tuesday evenings between 5 and 8 p.m. A recent donation of $2.3 million from the Helmsley Charitable Trust means that New York City school groups can visit free for the next year, Mr. Frazier said to the Post.

Staten Islanders interested in free admission should consider planning for a visit on a Tuesday night. Post added the 9/11 museum’s appetite for crass commercialism will be satisfied with an 80-seat restaurant inside the memorial’s allegedly solemn grounds. There are other ways of getting involved. As a former volunteer at the 9/11 Memorial, I expect to begin training to volunteer in the museum this summer. This activity costs absolutely nothing and is open to all visitors interested in learning more about the memorial and the museum. For information about volunteering or employment visit http://www.911memorial.org. There are ways we can remember without spending a lot. Tuesday nights and volunteering opportunities abound this summer. Shouldn't you take a look?

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