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OpinionColumnistsRachel Figueroa-Levin

Mad about 9/11 museum shop? Don't be

1 World Trade Center' 57th floor terrace looks

1 World Trade Center' 57th floor terrace looks down on the 9/11 Memorial Pools and Museum. Photo Credit: Craig Ruttle

As you've probably heard, many people are disappointed that the National September 11 Memorial Museum in Lower Manhattan has a gift shop.

I'm not one of them. I'm not at all surprised there's a gift shop because such shopping is part of the American experience.

The problem is that many of us are reeling 13 years after the 9/11 attacks. We are still raw. We are still angry.

Yes, some of the gift-shop items are inappropriate -- like the fancy-looking neck ties and handbags. But the shop isn't that dissimilar from other gift shops, like the ones at Pearl Harbor or Holocaust museums. The difference is that for many New Yorkers our experience in those museums is that of somewhat disconnected tourists learning about a long-ago event. But our experience at the 9/11 museum includes reliving a traumatic attack that often feels like it happened yesterday.

The continental United States-shaped cheese plate with stars where the planes crashed probably wins the award for the most inappropriate souvenir. When complimented on the plate at the next dinner party, who would respond: "See those stars? That's where everyone died on 9/11 . . . Who wants more wine?"

The gift shop isn't necessarily for New Yorkers, it's for tourists. Because as much as we might dislike it, the World Trade Center is, and always was, a tourist attraction.

Yes, people died. Yes, some remains are there, but that's how it goes in America. Future generations will go there and buy a keychain and then put it in a drawer with the item they bought at The Gettysburg Museum.

How much of the expressed anger is about the shop and how much of it is about the fact that 9/11 changed the world as we knew it? Will my daughter who was born nine years after the attacks, feel the same anger? No, because to her the terror attacks will be a historical event she'll learn about in school -- like Pearl Harbor and Gettysburg.

One day she might visit the museum as part of a school trip. And if she wants to buy a souvenir to remind her of her experience and what she learned, so be it.

Rachel Figueroa-Levin tweets as @Jewyorican and @ElBloombito.


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