May 19, 2014— -- The 9/11 Memorial Museum, set to open to the public this Friday, is at the center of an intense debate.
The New York City-based museum costs $24 to enter, and the gift shop offers pricey coffee mugs, T-shirts, key chains and stuffed animals. A separate part of the museum also houses some 8,000 unidentified human remains from the terrorist attacks.
Those juxtapositions – tribute and commercialism, trinkets amid tragedy – have victims’ families fuming.
Jim Riches doesn’t plan on visiting. His son Jimmy, a firefighter, was 29 when he died in the attacks. It took more than six months to find some of Jimmy’s remains. The rest, Riches believes, are unidentified and in the repository.
“My son’s friends are going to have to pay $24 to go down and pay their respects,” Riches said. “I think that’s a disgrace. It’s the only cemetery in the world where you have to pay a fee to get in.”
Diane and Kurt Horning tells ABC News they’re appalled by what they’re calling “greed and commercialism.” They lost their son Matt Horning in the twin towers.
“I wouldn’t expect such an intrusion at Arlington Cemetery or at the Pentagon Memorial or at any cemetery,” they said.
In a statement, museum representatives tell ABC News that the museum receives no government funding and “relies on private fundraising, gracious donations and revenue from ticketing and carefully selected keepsake items for retail.”
Attorney Norman Siegel, who represents several of the victims' relatives, thinks there’s an easy solution to the controversy.
“Take the remains out of the museum and then I think there will be less opposition to the selling of the trinkets and the hats and shirts,” Siegel said.