NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – A new fee for some reservations at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum has some family members of Sept. 11 victims fuming mad.
As CBS 2’s Steve Langford reported, the memorial has added a $2 service fee to online and phone reservations, and relatives fell the foundation that is operating the memorial is cashing in on all that they have lost.
The enduring bond the world still feels with the hallowed ground where the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center once stood remained evident more than a decade later. Crowds were lined up on Sunday morning, and the donation box was filled with voluntary contributions.
But victims’ families were shocked and offended by the idea that officials are now charging the fee for advance registrations.
“I think it’s an outrage. I mean, people are coming down there to pay their respects to the people that died that day. They shouldn’t have to pay, you can’t charge to get into a cemetery and I think they’re making this a revenue-generating tourist attraction,” Jim Riches told WCBS 880’s Jim Smith.
Riches lost his firefighter son, Jimmy, on Sept. 11, 2001. He characterized the fee as “paying to get into a cemetery.”
“I think it’s going to be a revenue-generating tourist attraction, and that’s exactly what it is,” Riches told Langford. “It’s supposed to be a memorial to the people that died.”
He said no one should have to pay a fee to go to the memorial and say a prayer for his son and the nearly 3,000 others lost in the terror attacks.
“This is a memorial down there, it’s supposed to be a memorial, respectful,” Riches told Smith.
Sally Regenhard also lost her firefighter son in the terror attacks. She said she is not happy with the memorial’s decision to charge a fee.
“It is just a disaster,” she told Smith. “The lines, the commercialization, the tourist trap type of atmosphere, a lack of reverence.”
Regenhard said the families were promised there would never been a charge for the memorial.
“We are very, very, very upset about this,” she added.
The 9/11 Foundation said the $2 fee helps support the operational needs of the memorial and the not-yet-completed museum, which together, the foundation said will cost $700 million.
“Like other similar institutions, in order to help support the operational needs of the 9/11 Memorial we have implemented a service fee, solely for advance reservations. Visitors of course may still walk up to visit the Memorial without incurring this fee,” 9/11 Memorial President Joe Daniels said in a statement.
The foundation added that the fee eventually will be eliminated, since once construction is finished, advance passes will no longer be needed. And the fee does not apply to 9/11 families.
Questions of funding the memorial and museum are not new. Construction of the museum actually came to a halt for months last year when the Port Authority and the 9/11 Foundation battled over who would pay how much.
Few comments in opposition to the fee were heard among visitors to the memorial Sunday.
“I have no problem with that,” one person said. “It’s going toward a good cause and all that”
“So many people and volunteers go into this process that I’m totally fine with that,” another said.
“Well, if it’s going to the Memorial Foundation, all the funds are going to it, it would be a good cause,” a third person said.
“These things all cost money, so as far as I’m concerned, it goes for a good cause,” a fourth said.
But the fact that the 9/11 Foundation paid over $10 million in salaries and other compensation in 2011 led some to say the commemoration has gone commercial.
“Because they have high salaries and everything else, they’re making money off the dead,” a visitor said.
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