September 11, a day of loss and remembrance for Americans everywhere, should never be associated with a price tag. Yet the National September 11 Memorial & Museum has managed to do just that.
Last Friday, to the ire of many critics, the organization set a $24 mandatory admission fee on the 9/11 Museum, according to CNN. The big question is not just why such an exorbitant price is necessary, but also why there is a price at all? The opportunity to commemorate the day and the many lives lost should come free to all. Yet the fee appears to be more geared toward profit than the greater purpose of educating future generations of the tragic moment in U.S. history.
Joe Daniels, president of the organization, said in a press conference last Friday that the ticket price had been based on the 2014 annual operating budget of $63 million for the completed memorial and museum. Though it is true that the organization does not get any federal funding, does it really need $24 per person to cover the $63 million for “daily costs, including salaries”?
The adjoining outdoor 9/11 memorial has attracted 11.5 million visitors since its opening on Sept. 12, 2011, according to CNN. If the museum attracts just as many, it will rack up $276 million in two years, or $138 million annually — an amount that nearly doubles its $63 million budget.
Besides the fact that the price tag puts the museum in league with the most expensive in the country, there’s the bigger issue of preventing many from visiting and learning about the tragedy. Not every family of four can afford $96 for a day at the museum.
And then there’s the even bigger issue beyond the high price itself: its very existence. Though supporters of the fee are quick to point out that the memorial is free of charge, it still doesn’t make it right to charge admission to a museum that has the purpose of not only educating visitors, but also a memorial that commemorates the lives lost. In that regard, it’s the same as requiring people to pay more than just their respects to a memorial.
Sally Regenhard and retired Deputy Fire Chief Jim Riches, both of whom lost sons who were firefighters on Sept. 11, told the Los Angeles Times that the museum “was created to tell the story of 9/11 to future generations about the worst day in American history … It was never intended to be a revenue–generating tourist attraction with a prohibitive budget and entrance fee.”
There are many possible alternatives to the mandatory fee, including a suggested donation. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City has a suggested admission of $25, but not a required one. If a required fee really is necessary for the September 11 museum, it could definitely be lowered from $24 to make the price at least more affordable.
The museum aims to serve as an opportunity to remember an emotionally unifying, collectively felt experience of our time, and it’s wrong to put a price tag on it.
Valerie Yu is a sophomore majoring in biological sciences and English. “Point/Counterpoint” runs Fridays.