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Who will visit the 9/11 museum?

A featured reader comment at the New York Times’s review of the September 11 Memorial Museum, which was dedicated Thursday morning, began like this: “Having lived here in NYC during that time I most assuredly will never visit this museum. I do not need it to remember nor do I want to remember it.”

I lived in New York City at the time, and I still have competing desires to forget and remember. Two years ago this spring, I visited the museum while writing for a company involved in its design. Work was well underway and the opening was considered imminent—this before Hurricane Sandy and the damage it caused adding further delay to a project already long beset by problems, not the least of which were reasonable questions over the advisability of building it in the first place. What would it contain (“exhibit” certainly didn’t sound like the appropriate verb)? What would it accomplish? And would visitors really be charged admission to a place also functioning as a repository for the remains of those killed in the attacks? (Yes: $24, as it turns out.) Publicized political tussling and construction setbacks didn’t help matters, nor did announced estimates of $60 million in annual operating costs. 

It was warm and sunny the day I visited; I was given a hardhat to wear and, along with a few colleagues, followed a project manager down into the site.

“Down” was the only way to go, after passing the pair of steel tridents that famously survived the collapse and that mark the museum’s entrance, then following a steadily descending ramp deep into the bedrock as daylight disappeared. There was still plenty of evidence of major work being done—heavy equipment, barricaded passageways, temporary lighting strung from the ceiling—but already some of the major pieces were in place, including what has come to be known as the “survivors’ staircase.” We were shown the sixty-foot section of exposed slurry wall that marked one edge of the tower’s footprint and that still holds the Hudson River at bay. Then, on the cavernous floor, the larger of the artifacts collected, having recently been lowered in by crane: the battered firetruck of Ladder Company 3, twisted remnants of “impact steel,” and a mysterious tangle of metal and wires we learned was an elevator motor.

Not in place that day were the numerous smaller artifacts that have since been added, some ten thousand in total--the purses and wallets and eyeglasses and other personal objects retrieved from the wreckage. Also since added: the Toshiba laptop belonging to Ramzi Yousef (a perpetrator of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing), and the interactive display of photographs of the people killed on September 11. I suppose I understand the purpose of the inclusion of these in a space serving both as a memorial and as a museum, and I can perhaps even allow myself to empathize with the “design intent” of evoking maximum emotional response. I’m just not sure I would have wanted to see such things that day; I’m not sure I want to see them now.

When we came up out of the unfinished museum, it was just after noon and there was a long line of visitors waiting to get into the street-level memorial park, which had already opened by then. Some ate ice cream; others drank lemonade. All probably had their own reasons for visiting, just as I had mine for going to get a look at the unfinished museum, even though I can’t say exactly what they were. Curiosity, maybe, not only about what was inside but how I might react to it, just over a decade on. Maybe it’s curiosity that will draw those who decide to visit the completed, $700 million, 110,000-square-foot memorial museum when it opens to the public next Wednesday. That commenter on the Times story won’t be among them, though: “Life goes on,” the commenter continued, “and we carry the pain and loss of those we loved. The museum is not needed by us. Maybe others.” More than two-and-half-million of those are expected within the first year.

About the Author

Dominic Preziosi is Commonweal’s digital editor.



Commenting Guidelines

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$24 is obscene ... even for New York.

$700 million is as well

The museum is not needed by us. Maybe others.

Not unlike a lot of other things that are needed not by "us" but maybe others. 

I share the sentiment of the Times' commenter, and likely, won't be visiting this museum anytime soon, if ever.


Thank you for this thoughtful and nuanced post, Dominic P.

It was a traumatic event for the city and the nation and so a museum or memorial is appropriate. It cannot be denied as it is a powerful part of modern American history and will shape the experience for decades to come. There should be no charge and it should be supported by federal tax dollars.

The only problem is the meaning of that event for the collective consciousness of Americans needs sustained reflection.

I am sure that it means a lot of things to a lot of people. It was the first time that the continental United States was attacked and that is significant. It was a very visual image that poured across television sets and the whole world. 

I was deeply moved, touched, and emotionally impacted by Suheir Hamad's reflection of 9-11. As a poet, an American of Palestinian descent, and a Muslim woman, I think she beautifully describes the legacy and what it means for Americans and indeed all of us.

A memorial is certainly appropriate.  And needed.  A museum?  I'm not so sure that is either needed or necessary.  In a sense it seems to me to be almost too self-absorbed. 

Visit to the memorial at Ground Zero was veyr moving for my teens and myself two years ago...

As with others, not sure how to think about the "museum." 

However, I know that $24 person is not right.

I haven't checked "donations" or admission prices at other museums in the city, but isn't this now the most expensive?

It may be that New Yorkers who lived through the events of 9/11 and the acrimony that surrounded the site, the museum, and now the surrounding security will have had more than enough memories. The egos that dominated the fight to create something, anything, over the years--Guiliani, Bloomberg, Cuomo along with lesser egos--has poisoned the site for others.

And $24. is a lot for mid-cult.

The "footprints" with the watefalls looks awesome, beautiful and joyful.I'm looking forward to being in that place;urban ,life affirming  and peaceful.The rest, though called for, has I think, a sinister purpose beyond commemorating the people and the events; I feel that the whole purpose is really;" let's never forget how much we hate those people"[On a glorious September morning while  we were innocently  minding our own business in the world, look what these evil,irrational  people did to us good people because our women don't wear head scarves]!Perhaps in the future, it won't be about that but to me and throughout  my life that's what it will always evoke.I'll probably go see it anyway, when it's free or reasonably priced. After all the billions given to the city after 9-11, it's really offensive that they can get away with charging 24 dollars!.

There is a very important book that is a propos: The Ethics of Memory by Avishai Margalit.  It is a sustained evaluation of both remembering and forgetting, and it includes (but does not soley focus on) Yad Vashem - "the name and the place."  If you do not already know Margalit, this is a good first encounter,on a matter that touches usall in different contexts.

The actual implementation in New York may be flawed, the price too high, the planning marred by political posturing.   And yet remembering may be very important.

The actual implementation in New York may be flawed, the price too high, the planning marred by political posturing. And yet remembering may be very important.

Well said!

In the 70's I entered a disco in Manhattan. I asked about he entrance fee. The guy said: "$15.00." 

I answered  "are you kidding."  He countered: "This is New York City, Baby!" Think about it. Forty years later. If you have your values straight, it's a bargain. For those who have been cloistered lately, I have news for you. The parking will be more. 

Bring your lunch.

OR, rather than park, you can take the subway for $2.50 (free transfer). Yes, bring your lunch.

A  jewish person who was in the WTC on 9/11 remarked to his non Jewish Colleage after the plane hit: "Now you know what it is to be an Israeli" or "Now you are an Israeli."

The other way to look at 9/11 is how fortunate we are here to escape the violence that is so common in too many parts of the world. It does show the thin-skinned part of many Americans who do not want to acknowledge that 9/11 happened. 

When it hits home the story changes. 

Admission to the Museuam is free according to its website. There is a $2 service charge to secure the visit. Where did the idea of $24 dollar charge come from?


Well Bill, the problem I have with "remembering" 9/11 is that the event itself along with much of the patriotism that it inspired was hijacked by warmongers to wage the war they always wanted, which had nothing to do with Al Qaeda or Osama bin Laden.  It's like finding out that your spouse married you for your money.  You will just never hear the protests about how much you are also loved for yourself the same way you once did.  This is no disrespect to those who died, and certainly, not to those who showed heroism and devotion to duty, as firefighters surely did.  But I doubt that the 9/11 museum tells the truth I think about a lot: this horrible event did not make us better as a nation and probably did much to entrench the toxic political stalemate we find ourselves in. 

David - please see the museum's complete ticket-information page for a breakdown of admission prices. Admission for one adult is $24; seniors, vets, and students receive discounts ($18), as do kids ($15); 9/11 family members receive free admission. Guided tours cost more: $42 for one adult, $36 for seniors/vets/students, $33 for kids. Admission to the memorial, a different site, is free.  

Thank you. I see my error in thinking museum but checking the Memorial.

It is sad that this so priced that will create a real question about visiting for many... and others just somewhat resentfully paying the fees. I'm really surprised that it was decided that way.

Still curious about other admission sites in the city... been to many of them, but can't recall... this surely must be the highest of this broad genre of "museums..".


This is precisely why there needs to be sustained reflection on the event. Personally, I think Rev. Wright actually had it right. Aside from the misleading clips, his sermon was prophetic and well in line with the Hebrew prophets of the Old Testament who frequently saw defeat of Israel as part of a call to repentence and change. He rightly catalogues this sins of the USA and how the cycle of violence is perpetuated through complete payback and on it goes from ancient history right up to today. He compares us to where the people of faith in 551 BC were to where the people of faith are in 2001 CE. At some point, we need to break this cycle. He said America's chickens are coming home to roost. "We took this country by terror away from the Sioux, the Apache, the Comanche, the Navajo..terrorism...we took Africans away from their countries to build our way of ease and kept them enslaved and living in fear...terrorism...." He continues on with Hiroshima and Nagasaki and finally says, "and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is brought to our own front yard"/ Violence begets violence and terrrorism begets terrrorism.

He said what should our response be? He said he saw people jumping from the 10th floor and the roof. People jumping to death. And he asked what should are response be? 

  • This is a time for SELF examination. As I sat 900 miles away from my family of faith. This was a time for me to reflect on my personal relationship with God. This is a time of SELF examination. How is our relationship doing? Are you trying to get right with God. Is it real or fake? 

Similarly, the nation of the USA needs to think of itself, its action, how it contributed to the tragedy. The USA needs time and space to reflect on this in a mature way.

I don't know that we have reflected in this way but we need to and maybe the museum might be a means to open the discussion.

George D:

Thank you for linking the YouTube of the Reverend Dr. Jeremiah Wright's actual sermon.   It is very well for all with ears to hear and eyes to see, and then to judge as we may, but on the basis of the record.  There is more to it than just that one sermon, of course, just as there is more than just the text of Leaves of Grass, but we need a place to start.

9-11 will surely ave one complex of memories and meaings for the people of New York who were alive then.   But t also has meanings for many others, and lbefore too long it will have meanings for New Yorkers who were not there. Honoring all those memories, and allowing for contexts, such as Babara and George address, is part of the task.

Mark L


Answering my own previous question about other museum costs...too long since this Upstater has visited the Big Apple, I guess!

MOMA -$25, Guggenheim-$22, Statue and Ellis Island -$25 and up...

So... on one level, $24 is not out of line, but still... could argue for some type of subsidy, but I know the fundamental questions raised by this blog remain.



Time magazine cited $65 million in annual upkeep--none of it subsidized by any government entity. Whew! That's a lotta dough.

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