Memorial is forever open

The past few days have been full of gratitude and grief, happiness and sadness, remembrance and regret. This year’s anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001 was a milestone unlike any of the nine anniversaries that preceded it. At the center of the emotion that was broadcast all over the world was the opening of the National September 11 Memorial.

We would like to applaud the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for making sure the opening even happened. Many forget that at one time the opening was slated for 2013 and not 2011. But the Port and the construction workers it employs altered that timeline, noting the importance of the passing of a decade. As members of the press we were lucky to have been afforded the opportunity to tour the site on multiple occasions over the past years. And it is because of that fact that we can attest to just how much progress has been made in just the last few months. The effort involved in pulling this opening off in time should make all New Yorkers and all Americans proud.

But as we did in the immediate days following 9/11, we must continue to live our lives. And while heeding William Faulkner’s words “The past is never dead, it’s not even past,” we must look to the future.

Last Friday, Sen. Daniel Inouye, a Democrat from Hawaii, introduced legislation that would provide annual funding in the amount of $20 million to the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum. All federal funds appropriated would need to be matched by non-federal sources, such as admissions fees, gifts, and fundraising.

Sen. Inouye is more than familiar with the significance of funding an institution like the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum. His home state has a similar institution, the Pearl Harbor Memorial, that has also benefited from federal funding.

This legislation is supported by Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, Mayor Bloomberg, and Governor Cuomo, and we support it as well.  The attacks of September 11 were clearly an attack on America, and supporting the site is at least partly a national responsibility.

There have been reports that Sen. Inouye’s bill would immediately place the 9/11 Memorial and Museum under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of the Interior and therefore be designated a U.S. National Park. That however is not the case, but the federal support needs to obtain a number of approvals and overcome some complex issues of titling and ownership of the site.

The federal contribution of $20 million would cover approximately a third of the annual cost of operation and maintenance of the Memorial and Museum. While entrance to the Memorial will remain free, hopefully this federal support would shave some of the “suggested admission fees,” in the range of $20-25, which are envisioned when the Museum formally opens.

While the Museum is not yet open, we believe that it is wise and prudent to take action now to ensure that when it does open it will remain and exist as a source of education and inspiration for future generations.