South Carolina woman who lost husband, son on 9/11 asked to halt emotional museum visit for VIP party

By Rich Schapiro, New York Daily News

Susan Simon traveled a long way to visit the 9/11 Museum on Tuesday, but her visit was rudely disrupted by VIP party preparations. Bill Denver for New York Daily News

Susan Simon traveled a long way to visit the 9/11 Museum on Tuesday, but her visit was rudely disrupted by VIP party preparations. Bill Denver for New York Daily News

Susan Simon planned months ahead to spend a quiet Tuesday at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum to see where her family’s unidentified remains were kept. She was initially barred because of Tuesday’s VIP party.

She had to fight just to spend a few minutes with the remains of her husband and son — initially barred by workers who were clearing the way for a cocktail party at the 9/11 Museum. After trekking to lower Manhattan from her South Carolina home, Susan Simon stood her ground when workers tried to shoo her group out of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum about noon Tuesday.

The staffers claimed the museum was being cleared out for final preparations ahead of Wednesday’s public opening.

It wasn’t until 24 hours later that Simon learned the museum was closed early for an invite-only party attended by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and a bevy of big shot donors.

“I found out the next day there was a VIP party, and I thought we were the VIPs!” fumed Simon, who lives near Hilton Head Island. “It’s like having a party in a cemetery.”

The Daily News was the first to report on the controversial affair.

Simon told her story a day after dozens of 9/11 families, first responders and even tourists voiced disgust over the shameful shindig meant to recognize museum supporters. Her trip to the city had been months in the making.

“One of the reasons I came up was to see the museum with other family members and not with a crowd of people,” she said.

Simon was especially interested in finding out how the remains of hundreds of unidentified victims were being kept.

In the years after the terror attacks, only a fraction of the remains of her husband, Arthur, 57 — an equities trader with Fred Alger Management — were discovered. No trace of her son, Kenneth, 34 — an equities trader for Cantor Fitzgerald — was found.

Simon’s group arrived at the museum about 10 a.m. and walked slowly through the haunting exhibits.

When a worker told them it was time to leave two hours later, Simon was confused.

“I was very upset because no one told us they were going to close early,” she said.

An incensed Simon told the worker she wasn’t going to exit the museum until they allowed her inside the basement floor “family room.”

The locked room — controlled by the city medical examiner’s office and open only to family members — offered a glimpse of the space containing the unidentified remains.

“I was ready to do a sit-in until I was able to get inside,” said Simon.

The workers expressed sympathy for Simon and then let her inside.

She tried to peek through the 4-by-5-foot window that allows visitors to see how the remains are stored. But the workers couldn’t figure out how to turn the exhibit’s lights on, so she saw nothing.

Simon left the museum with a bad taste in her mouth — one that turned even more bitter when she learned the real reason she was told to leave.

“I felt insulted and disrespected,” Simon said. “I’m just so angry that I was lied to.”

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