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Must everything have a price tag?

This Sept. 11, one decade since the Twin Towers terror attack that killed 2,752 people, the World Trade Center Memorial will open at last at Ground Zero. On 9/11, only family members of the victims will have access, but the general public can start visiting on Sept. 12.
(Note: While construction continues at Ground Zero, Memorial visitors must make a reservation and obtain a pass.)
The Memorial is the above-ground portion of what is to be the city’s and the nation’s tribute to the dead. It will comprise reflecting pools marking the footprints of the towers, a garden of foliage and the names of the victims, and admission will be free.
Next year, however, when the World Trade Center Museum, located under the Memorial, opens, it could require a $25 admission fee, the New York City Council was told last week by the people who will operate it.
Twenty-five dollars? To visit what is basically a battleground — the place where the United States was attacked by a plague of cowards? To what is also the closest thing to a cemetery the WTC has?
There is no admission fee to Arlington or Gettysburg or the beaches at Normandy. Charging a fee should be unthinkable.
Yet, Joe Daniels, the president and CEO of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum Foundation, says the place will need to generate enough revenue to cover annual operating expenses of up to $60 million.
(I, for one, would love to see a breakdown of those expenses. Not that I don’t believe the estimate. It’s just that these days  we are forever hearing astronomical figures bandied about for this or that project or program, but the details are rarely provided. And the public has ceased questioning.)
According to its website, the Museum will feature “artifacts, photographs, audio and video tapes, personal effects and memorabilia, expressions of tribute and remembrance. . . .” Among the artifacts: the twisted steel from the towers and the wreckage of a fire engine.
To its credit, the nonprofit foundation has already raised $630 million for construction of the Museum and Memorial, and it is seeking additional funding that could prevent the need for an admission fee. But $25 per head is a real possibility. And far too expensive for many people.
In way of justification, it is noted that this is standard for other museums and cultural venues in the city. But the WTC Museum is not like any other. And it is certainly not a cultural venue. It will be a sacred place. A holy place. A cathedral of mourning and remembrance.
Daniels says victims’ family members would always be admitted for free and there could be discounts for school groups. Hey! How about some online coupons? Or maybe would-be visitors could bid for tickets on eBay.
My hope is that there will be enough public outrage expressed about this abysmal admission fee that it will die aborning.
Still, it could be worse.
I’m waiting for someone to offer that now-popular fundraising option: Selling the naming rights to the place.
“Welcome to the ShamWow!/ChiaPet World Trade Center Museum.”

—Karen Zautyk

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