As the National September 11 Memorial Museum in lower Manhattan holds its grand opening to the public Wednesday, a new controversy has emerged over what can and should occur on what many consider hallowed ground that houses the remains of 1,115 unidentified victims.
The museum's doors were shut late Tuesday for a reported VIP-only gathering, a source told the New York Daily News, adding that it allegedly included "drinking, eating and laughing."
Two tridents from the original World Trade Center loom inside the National September 11 Memorial Museum as the new One World Trade Center rises outside during the opening ceremony for the museum at ground zero May 15, 2014 in New York City. (Image source: Getty Images/Pool)
In addition, the Daily News said, some first responders were turned away Tuesday afternoon while the museum made preparations for the evening's invited guests; Tuesday was the final day first responders could tour the site for free before Wednesday's opening.
The black-tie soiree, featuring crab cakes and shrimp cocktail hors d'oeuvres, attracted former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and about 60 others. And while it was billed as a dedication ceremony, one museum employee — speaking on the condition of anonymity — told the Daily News that it wasn't exactly a solemn gathering.
“They were drinking, eating and laughing when this is pretty much a gravesite,” the employee told the paper, adding that the information desk on the museum's lower level was turned into a bar for the event.
"I don’t think alcohol should be allowed in there," the worker told the Daily News. "It’s a sacred ground and they desecrated it."
This report comes on the heels of the recent outcry over the 9/11 Museum housing a gift shop. Opinions on what's appropriate to include in the museum have varied, and Mediate noted that the Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum have similar shops — and that there are also a number of Pearl Harbor gift shops.
Ann Coulter told CNN’s Don Lemon Monday night that the 9/11 museum “absolutely” should have a gift shop.
“Americans feel massive sympathy and kindness toward the survivors of the people who died. Thus, they have been paid well, but this is a museum," Coulter said, The Daily Caller noted. "To act like everything has to bend to these survivors of a particular victim in this — this wasn’t a car accident. It was an attack on the country and Americans have very strong feelings about it. I think it is a silly controversy.”
So, what do you say? Is it appropriate for the 9/11 museum to house a gift shop? To host gatherings like the one that reportedly occurred Tuesday night? Let us know in the comments section below.