The gift shop at the 911 Museum

3 minute read

I remember when America had more respect and not everything could have a price tag attached. If the scenes of 9/11 don’t haunt you or if you think younger generations just won’t get it without walking through the Memorial Museum, fear not. You can stop at the Museum Store on the way out and purchase something to remember it by.

America… seriously? There is something very wrong with this.

We watched the Twin Towers fall at the hands of terrorists, bound together by the unbelievable yet real images unfolding on live TV. We swore we’d rebuild and come back even stronger, more united.

Where in that healing did we come to the agreement that we should have a museum on those people’s burial site and open a store to sell items bearing its name?

The 9/11 Memorial Museum, built on the grounds where thousands of innocents perished in balls of flames and crumbling steel structures, not only tells the story of that horrible event, but also offers souvenirs for sale. Proceeds benefit the maintenance and overhead for the museum.

That’s supposed to make me feel better?

For the record, I believe they should have left the items from Titanic at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. So in this case, I think they should have been satisfied with the memorial pool – those flowing fountains surrounded by black walls inscribed with the names of the murdered. Its calming, soothing sounds create a healing sensation in an appropriate scene for mourning and remembering, with dignity.

I’m not against remembering or writing books or even creating art as people try to process their losses and what America lost that day. In September 2002, I was in New York for a fun weekend. A friend and I wandered around looking up at the skyscrapers around us in Midtown. I’d been to the city many times, but still marveled at the awesomeness of NYC.

We ended up on the Avenue of the Americas at the International Center of Photography and went inside. It was hot, and why not enjoy some excellent photography?

The last exhibit we saw featured photos from the events of 9/11. At the beginning of the large square room we would walk around, the blown-up displays showed the bright sunny day, nothing but blue skies around one of the World Trade Center Towers. Then, through the successive photos, the Tower got closer and the sky, darker. Towards the end of the exhibit, a mushroom-like cloud billowed out the Tower’s sides. Then, shot after shot showed in animated slow motion the Tower crumbling to the ground.

The exhibit ended with us standing near a small pedestal with a Plexiglas cube on top. Inside the cube were ash, broken wire-rimmed glasses, and a dusty 35mm camera. A picture of the photographer also rested inside. He was killed by the falling Tower, and the photos somehow were able to be printed and shown to the world.

He is one of too many. And they all deserve more than a memorial “museum” with a shop selling mugs, plush search and rescue dogs, keychains, tote bags, and iPhone cases that read “I Heart NY.” I love New York, too, but I don’t want any part of this museum or its store. This is too much. It’s gone too far. It’s like selling knickknacks standing on gravesites in a cemetery.

It’s been said that America is exceptional. It truly is – exceptionally callous, insensitive, undignified, capitalistic, and disrespectful.

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