Tourism Does Not Commercialize 9/11 Memorial


(Tessa Van Bergen/The Observer)
(Tessa Van Bergen/The Observer)

Recently, the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks passed. This year is special because it marks the completion of the Freedom Tower, which was built near Ground Zero. It also sees the completion of the memorial museum that commemorates 9/11.

Of course, the creation of the site attracts tourists from around the world, all of whom wish to see the site where the tragedy took place—whether it’s due to their respect for those who lost their lives that day, or just plain curiosity about the events that occurred.

However, due to the solemnity of the site, there is the question of whether or not tour groups should be allowed to gather the same way they are in Times Square. After all, it is home to one of the greatest tragedies that our country has witnessed, and some may find it offensive that tourists are permitted to roam the building as they please and take pictures of the artifacts from the site. Does tourism only serve to glorify the tragedy that happened years ago?

I believe there is no issue with allowing tourists to view the site. Allowing people to see the videos and hear the accounts of what occurred on Sept. 11, 2001 may help them gain a new understanding of the horror that took place, especially for those who might not be as connected to the tragedy as say, a native New Yorker, or someone who lost a loved one in the attacks.

I was at the 9/11 memorial last year, before the museum opened. My family and I walked the grounds slowly, taking everything in, and it seemed that everyone else was doing the same thing. There was an air of reverence and silence during our visit. Everyone acted respectfully, looking at the reflecting pools and the other landmarks put in the park.

If one truly thinks about it, allowing tourists to visit the memorial is no different from them visiting the memorial for Pearl Harbor, which is also at the actual site of where over 2,000 Americans were killed in the 1941 bombing of a U.S. naval base by Japan. Tourists who went to Pearl Harbor showed the same respect they would have if they were at the 9/11 memorial.

However, while tourism does not work to lessen the events of 9/11 in importance, commercialism does. Commercialism, when someone uses events or situations to their own benefit or to make a profit, takes the tragedy and exploits it as a way to make money by selling souvenirs that focus on the attacks, not caring who it effects. Although there are no vendors in the area at the moment, the high traffic of the area makes it a perfect spot for vendors to park their tables and carts filled with 9/11 themed souvenirs. If this does occur, police officers should immediately remove them. The only financial profit that should be made at the site is the admission fee used to help with the upkeep of the museum.

The permitting of tourists at the 9/11 memorial can actually be very beneficial. Allowing tourists to roam free, or even providing guided tours could help enlighten those who are not as informed about the events that occurred thirteen years ago on that fateful day. It may allow them to look at in a different light, and to become more deeply involved in the event that shook the entire nation to its core. It may even cause them to spread the word and encourage others to visit the museum so they can learn about it as well. Additionally, the tourism does help the boost the city’s economy, another small plus due to the erection of the site. However, what really matters is what people take away from visiting the museum, which hopefully, is that 9/11 is a day that can never be, and should not be, forgotten.