The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Editorials

June 3, 2014

9/11 museum under scrutiny

— The 9/11 Memorial Museum is located in New York, but it is very much a building that belongs to all Americans.

So it’s painful to relate that the museum, to be kind, has some features that we find in very poor taste.

Criticism of the museum has centered on its gift shop. The New York Post broke the story recently, cataloging an array of junk which does nothing but diminish the very people the museum claims to honor:

“The 9/11 museum’s cavernous boutique offers a vast array of souvenir goods. For example: FDNY, NYPD and Port Authority Police T-shirts ($22) and caps ($19.95); earrings molded from leaves and blossoms of downtown trees ($20 to $68); cop and firefighter charms by Pandora and other jewelers ($65); “United We Stand” blankets.”

Even worse than the New York Fire Department doggie vest in the gift shop was the decorative ceramic cheese platter formed in the shape of the United States with “heart” symbols marking the sites where the hijacked airliners crashed on 9/11.

“To me, it’s the crassest, most insensitive thing to have a commercial enterprise at the place where my son died,” Diane Horning told the Post.

“Here is essentially our tomb of the unknown. To sell baubles I find quite shocking and repugnant,” said Horning.

“I think it’s a money-making venture to support inflated salaries, and they’re willing to do it over my son’s dead body.”

The museum’s CEO, Joe Daniels, defended the gift store and its stock of items by pointing out that the museum relies on private funding and donations and thus has to turn a profit.

That doesn’t wash. While we commend the museum for not taking the route of reaching into the pockets of American taxpayers, there have to be some limits that we set as a society on bad taste when it involves mass deaths in what was an act of war.

What’s next? A Seaworld show with killer whales next to the sunken hull of the USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor?

The museum’s CEO has responded to the pressure surrounding the gift shop by pulling some of the worst items and promising that future gift shop items will be properly vetted to see if they are acceptable.

We think showing some taste and restraint is a positive development.

We’re shocked that it happened this way, but who can be surprised at the vulgarity we increasingly see in America. If you want examples, just turn on the TV and flip through the channels any day of the week.

Part of our strong reaction to all this is no doubt due to the stories and events honoring veterans that we covered over the recent Memorial Day holiday.

We chronicled a solemn weekend that was filled with an overriding respect for veterans who gave their lives for our nation.

The families of the sons and daughters lost on 9/11 deserve better from America’s 9/11 Memorial Museum.

Like the USS Arizona, we need to remember exactly just what the World Trade Center site in New York, the Pennsylvania crash site, the Pentagon and Pearl Harbor really are.

They are burial grounds.

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