9/11 Victims’ Families Protest Mandatory WTC Museum Fee

By Sarah Dorsey Chief Leader

A group of victims’ families sharply objected to National September 11 Memorial and Museum President Joe Daniels’s statement before the City Council Nov. 13 that admission to the facility, where the unidentified remains of World Trade Center victims will be held, will cost “in the low 20-dollar range.”

Victims’ families won’t be charged a fee, Mr. Daniels reiterated, and he added that one day a week, he plans to admit the public for free as well. He said he wasn’t receiving enough Federal funding to run a free museum with such enormous ongoing costs.

‘Fee a Disgrace’

Fire Battalion Chief Jim Riches, who chairs the group 9/11 Parents and Families of Firefighters and WTC Victims, wasn’t placated by either promise.

“I think that’s a disgrace,” he said of the fee. “They should just have a suggested donation; it should not be mandatory…I’m sure Americans will be very generous.”

Mr. Riches’ son, Jimmy, was a 29-year-old Firefighter when he was killed on September 11.

“This is America’s museum, the 9/11 national memorial,” Chief Riches said. “It should be open to everyone, rich, poor, for everyone to remember so it never happens again, and they’re trying to make it into a revenue-generating tourist attraction and not a memorial to the people who died.”

“Who’s a family member?” he said of the promise that they’d get in free. “Is it cousins? Is it brothers? Is it just the wives? The one day free—that’s baloney. He’s getting rich off 9/11.”

The 9/11 museum declined to comment.

Object to Placement

The 9/11 Parents and Families group opposes the storing of victims’ remains underground within the paid area of the museum, preferring an aboveground memorial similar to Washington’s Tomb of the Unknowns. They’ve also said they believe the National Park Service would be better suited to creating a tasteful and respectful site and objected to Mr. Daniels’ salary, which tops $400,000.

In January, 17 members of the group unsuccessfully petitioned an appellate court for the contact information of 2,749 family members of September 11 victims after they were denied them through a state Freedom of Information Law request. They said the foundation that runs the museum hadn’t accurately described its plans when asking for their approval, and wanted to ask them themselves.

A survey the group sent last year to 2,100 family members using e-mails collected by another victim’s parent yielded only 350 replies, but those nearly all opposed the plan to hold the remains underground inside the paid area of the museum, the group announced. In reply, foundation spokespeople presented many letters they’d sent to families over the years and said that most supported the idea.

Drawing 5 Million a Year

The museum’s projected annual operating budget is $60 million and the portions of the memorial that are already open attract about 5 million visitors a year, Mr. Daniels said. At the City Council hearing this month, he defended the fee, saying it had been difficult to secure Federal funding.

“The museum admission will be the primary source of revenue available to operate and maintain the memorial and museum at a level that befits the national history they represent,” he told the Council, citing the ongoing need for security, educational programs and other visitor services.

The museum is scheduled to open in the spring.

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