How about a cozy sweatshirt or a nice silk scarf to remember one of the darkest days in America’s history? The National September 11 Memorial and Museum, which opened to the public on May 15, is garnering quite a bit of controversy thanks to its addition of a gift shop. The museum, described by those who have visited it as “beautiful and heartbreaking,” is non-profit, and it relies solely on donations, ticket sales (it’s $24 for entry), and other forms of funding.
That’s why organizers decided to include a gift shop with “carefully selected” items, including sweatshirts, mugs, hats, umbrellas, tote bags, phone cases, silk scarves, ornaments, dog toys, and even designer jewelry. Proceeds from gift shop sales, organizers say, will go toward operating the museum.
I’m not okay with that.
My opinion of this may be a bit biased, considering I still remember watching the collapse of the World Trade Towers in my high school classroom, and I still remember the fear, and the horror, and all the other emotions that come with the realization that our country is being attacked on its own soil.
I can still see the images of the Twin Towers as they crumbled, hear the people screaming as they ran from the massive cloud of dust, and even remember the intense fear we all shared in the days following.
And I am among millions who watched the events unfold that day.
I can’t imagine that I’m the only person who still has trouble watching the coverage. I have trouble controlling my emotions when I see the famous “Falling Man” picture. I can’t bring myself to watch television specials or movies based on the attack.
It’s still all too real. And I think that sentiment is felt by many others. I don’t need— or want — a set or earrings to bring all those feelings back. It’s hard enough to keep them at bay when I find myself reading another article about the families left behind or the surviving rescuers who are struggling still in the aftermath of the attack.
I understand that funding has to come from somewhere. The museum should exist. I think September 11, 2001 is a date that should never fade from our collective consciousness — no matter how many generations away we move from that day. The museum can help keep do that.
But do we need really dog toys and sweatshirts to keep the memories alive? I know I don’t.
And it is just disrespectful. Nearly 3,000 people were killed that day.
I don’t think wearing a hat with “9/11” on the front of it is giving those lost their due respect.