NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — This September will mark 20 years since the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

And like many cultural institutions during the pandemic, the 9/11 Memorial & Museum was shuttered.

Though it has since re-opened, it’s not seeing the usual crowds coming through.

CBS2’s Alice Gainer has more on budget cuts and how it may affect the 20-year commemoration.

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On a recent Thursday afternoon at closing time, CBS2 talked to many families exiting the 9/11 Memorial & Museum.

“I go in there, I see all the rusted metal and I’m like thinking, ‘Wow, this must’ve been some day,'” 12-year-old Noah Tzour of Los Angeles said.

School may be out for the summer, but Tzour said he got an eye-opening education about 9/11 at the museum.

“And I hear their last messages and then I keep walking and then I hear some people saying they stayed in the second building,” Tzour said.

(Photo: CBS2)

About 4,500 people were at the museum on that Thursday, half the pre-pandemic attendance level, which was around 8,500 a day.

The museum’s budget relies heavily on ticket sales.

“That amounted to about 85% of all of our income, pre-pandemic, and it covered about 92% of our operating expenses,” said museum president and CEO Alice Greenwald.

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Greenwald said, initially, 60% of the 340-person staff were furloughed or laid off, but about 160 are now back.

“A very large percentage of our budget does go into the maintenance, security and operations,” Greenwald said.

While the museum costs $26 per ticket, the memorial is free and open seven days a week. The reflecting pools require upkeep, as do the 400 trees.

As part of the budget cuts, the museum is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, Gainer reported.

“We wanted to show them it’s part of our being American. Unfortunately, it’s closed,” one person said.

The family, which was visiting from the West Coast, said they’ll try again during their next trip.

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As for the upcoming milestone, Greenwald said, “We had a lot of plans for the 20th anniversary. We had to make certain decisions based on resources.”

An exhibition exploring the role of music in helping people heal is now postponed, but the reading of the names will take place, the Tribute in Light, and for the second time the Tribute in Lights, where buildings around the city light up blue, along with some boats on the Hudson River.

“The memorial on 9/11, what we do it is for the families and the families only, and we don’t need a spectacle,” said Anthoula Katsimatides, a member of the museum’s board of trustees.

Katsimatides lost her brother, John, on 9/11.

“I can understand why folks might expect something different because it’s a milestone anniversary, but I can tell you right now, from my opinion as a family member, it’s not what it’s about. It really isn’t what it’s about. It’s just another year being without John, being without our loved ones,” she said.

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With tears in her eyes, she explained that after COVID prevented her from hugging other families last year, those embraces are all she needs this year.

Board members contributed funds to keep the museum afloat. They also received two PPP loans, donations, and federal grant money.

Alice Gainer