Leaders of the soon-to-open museum are portraying it as a monument to unity and resilience ahead of its dedication, saying that the struggles to build it and conflicts over its content would be trumped by its tribute to both loss and survival.
“It wasn’t about us. It wasn’t about the families. We were motivated by our loss, but we want to make sure the generations that follow us could interact and experience the remains of the towers,” 9/11 family member Anthony Gardner told CBS 2’s Lou Young.
Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Wednesday that the Sept. 11 museum describes how people across the world came together after the attacks.
Bloomberg, who is the memorial foundation’s chairman, said the museum “will keep that spirit of unity alive.”
“The museum tells heartbreaking stories of unimaginable loss, but also inspiring stories of courage and compassion,” he said. “It tells how in the aftermath of the attacks, our city, our nation and people across the world came together.”
The sights and sounds of the museum are all encompassing and at times, overwhelming, CBS 2’s Jessica Schneider reported.
The steel and glass museum houses more than 10,000 artifacts, 23,000 photographs, 1,900 oral histories and 500 hours of film and video.
The public symbols of survival and loss include the battered “survivors’ staircase” that hundreds used to escape as the skyscrapers burned and crumbled.
There is also the memento-covered last column removed during the ground zero cleanup and the cross-shaped steel beams that became an emblem of remembrance. (An atheists’ group has sued, so far unsuccessfully, seeking to stop the display of the cross).
Portraits and profiles describe the nearly 3,000 people killed by the Sept. 11 attacks and the 1993 trade center bombing. Nearly 2,000 oral histories give voice to the memories of survivors, first responders, victims’ relatives and others.
The museum faced financing squabbles and construction challenges. Conflicts over its content underlined the sensitivity of memorializing the dead while honoring survivors and rescuers, of balancing the intimate with the international.
“At the very site where terrorists sought to destroy us, we have rebuilt. Where there was twisted steel and fires burned for months, there are now touching remembrances of loved ones taken too soon,” museum president Joe Daniels said.
Members of the museum’s interfaith clergy advisory panel raised concerns that it plans to show a documentary film, about al Qaeda, that they said unfairly links Islam and terrorism. The museum has said the documentary is objective and its scholarship solid.
While some Sept. 11 victims’ relatives have embraced the museum, others have denounced its $24 general-public ticket price as unseemly and its underground location as disrespectful, particularly because unidentified remains are being stored in a private repository there.
Several families gathered outside the memorial gates Wednesday night to say their relatives should not be buried inside a museum that costs $24 to enter, Schneider reported.
“We want those remains up on the plaza, a nice memorial where they can continue DNA testing. They don’t belong in an admission-charging museum,” said Jim Riches.
Other victims’ families see it as a fitting resting place.
Last week, a few dozen family members gathered as unidentified remains of those killed in the attacks were returned to the World Trade Center site in a solemn procession.
The remains were to be transferred to an underground repository in the same building as the museum.
The museum and the memorial plaza above it cost a total of $700 million to build. They will cost $60 million a year to run, more than Arlington National Cemetery and more than 15 times as much as the museum that memorializes the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
“What’s in the museum now is our exhibition collection, but our permanent collection is much bigger — lots of additional artifacts that will be rotated in throughout time,” Daniels told Young.
The museum organizers have noted that security alone costs about $10 million a year.
After Thursday’s dedication, the museum will be open for six days around-the-clock to Sept. 11 survivors, victims’ relatives, first responders and lower Manhattan residents.
It opens to the public May 21. The $24 admission will be waived for all visitors on opening day, but advance reservations are required.
There will be no admission charge for relatives of Sept. 11 victims or for rescue and recovery workers. Children age 6 and younger will get in free. Admission will be free for everyone on Tuesdays from 5 p.m. and 8 p.m.
The museum’s regular hours will be 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.
Officials say advanced reservations for tickets can be booked at 911memorial.org.
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