A photo of the National September 11 Memorial Museum in New York. (Source: Google Maps/MGN Online)
Inside the 9/11 Memorial Museum, which opened to the public on Wednesday. (Source: WCBS/POOL/CNN)
The flag that flew over Ground Zero was unfurled during a ceremony at the public opening of the 9/11 Memorial Museum on Wednesday. (Source: WCBS/POOL/CNN)
NEW YORK (RNN) – A handful of controversies have marred the somber public opening of the National Sept. 11 Memorial Museum.
Among the few concerns is a $24 admission fee for the general public and a gift shop that sells memorabilia of the Twin Towers on coffee mugs and t-shirts. Also on-site is The Pavilion Cafe, slated to open this summer, that will seat 80 and serve a "seasonal, mostly vegetarian menu" of "comfort foods" and alcohol, according to The New York Times.
Families of the victims are concerned that the memorial and the lives lost are being used as a money making tourist attraction for the city of New York.
Joe Daniels, the president of the memorial, told CNN that with the yearly operational costs totaling $65 million, admission fees and gift shop sales aren't meant to trivialize, but sustain the memorial.
Daniels said the gift shop's top sellers are educational DVDs and books about Sept. 11 and the history behind the events of the day.
A headline of one New York City newspaper called the memorial gift shop a "Little Shop of Horrors," and quoted one victim's mother as saying, "To me, it's the crassest, most insensitive thing to have a commercial enterprise at the place where my son died."
The latest controversy includes reports of mourning firefighters being told to leave the museum so it could be readied for a black-tie event, hosted by New York-based media company and museum donor Conde Nast. The event was attended by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
The New York Post reported the party, held Tuesday, was VIP-only and served alcohol to the 50 to 60 guests in attendance. Museum spokesman Michael Frazier called the event "a small gathering" and some of the guests were family members of 9/11 victims.
"The small gathering was done respectfully and in recognition of our supporters who helped to build the memorial and museum," Frazier said to the New York Daily News.
Families do not pay for admission to the museum and were given private admission prior to the public opening.
According to the Christian Science-Monitor, 1,115 victims remain unidentified and entombed in the site where the memorial stands. On Sept. 11, 2,753 people were reported missing.
In its mission statement, the museum says it "is to bear solemn witness to the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 and February 26, 1993," and "honors the nearly 3,000 victims of these attacks and all those who risked their lives to save others."
The memorial was opened to the public on Wednesday.
Find out more information about the National September 11 Memorial Museum at its website.