By Candace Smith ABC News
When Marianne Pizzitola visited the World Trade Center Memorial last week, she was already wary. A retired EMS [sic] for the Fire Department of New York, Pizzitola, 43, had been a first responder on September 11th, almost 11 years ago. She, like so many others, lost friends that day and had finally mustered the strength to travel to New York from her current home in Georgia to pay her respects.
What she found disturbed her.
“This place is not being treated like a memorial,” she said.
Recalling crowded lines, laughter, smiling people, onlookers leaning and sitting on the tablets inscribed with victims’ names, Pizzitola said she felt as if she were lined up not for a somber memorial but a tourist attraction.
Philip Bredin, a visitor from Ireland, thinks it was inevitable the memorial would attract many visitors. “It certainly is a tourist attraction, was always going to attract tourists.”
But for Pizzitola, a shrine in memory of those who died should bear no semblance to anything fun.
“People are holding Starbucks cups, sitting on these tablets, one person had their a** on my friend’s name. I lost my emotional mind,” Pizzitola said. She added that “this is a grave and people should respect that point.”
In June, a group of Brooklyn teenagers were evicted from the memorial after throwing trash in the reflecting pools.
After talking with other first responders who she said felt similarly, Pizzitola fired off an email to the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, addressing her concerns and expressing her desire to find some sort of solution. She suggested a mandatory video for all visitors that would educate them on the events that left the Twin Towers demolished and almost 3,000 people dead.
Other visitors agree that perhaps a video would help reinforce the solemnity of the memorial.
“We should have a video and it should be mandatory and I think people will take it more seriously,” said Rebecca Fox of Tampa.
Much to Pizzitola’s surprise, she received an email from Joe Daniels, the 9/11 Memorial president, saying his team would be in touch with her. She was contacted by Allison Blais, chief of staff for the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. Pizzitola told ABC News that Blais seemed very responsive to her email and that officials had already been working to figure out how to improve the memorial.
While the 9/11 memorial had no official statement on Pizzitola’s email, they did refer ABC News to a sign posted in the line at the museum that calls for proper decorum: “The 9/11 Memorial is a place for solemn reflection dedicated to honoring and remembering the tragic events and the overwhelming loss of innocent life.”
A spokeswoman said that the memorial tries to educate all visitors by offering informational pamphlets to visitors as well as sending pre-visit educational material to any school group that visits.