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'We can't continue to dig into a hole': 9/11 Tribute Museum in NYC closes permanently because of low visitor rates following COVID

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Photo by Craig Ruttle-Pool/Getty Images

The 9/11 Tribute Museum, located less than half a mile away from the site of the World Trade Center, has shut its doors permanently, following a significant drop-off in visitors since the COVID lockdowns were lifted.

"Two-thirds of our income revenue annually comes from our earned income from admissions," said Jennifer Adams-Webb, museum co-founder and CEO of the September 11th Families' Association. "We were completely closed for six months in 2020. We had been averaging 300,000 visitors a year … and last year we had a total of 26,000 visitors, so it completely annihilated our earned income."

"There’s no way we’re going to be able to dig out of this at this rate,” she continued. “We need the state or the city to step in with other partners to be able to say, ‘We value you. We want to save this organization,’ but at this point, we can’t continue to dig into a hole."

The announcement has devastated the local community, especially those still personally affected by the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

"It's firsthand knowledge, firsthand experience for the people that come from all around the world to understand what happened here," co-founder Lee Ielpi said. "And again, who better to tell you than those that experienced, that lived it?"

Ielpi, who was once a New York City firefighter, lost his son Jonathan, a fellow NYC firefighter, in the World Trade Center on 9/11.

The 9/11 Tribute Museum was one of two NYC museums dedicated to memorializing the 9/11 attacks. The other museum, the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, is located directly on the property where the Twin Towers once stood. The 9/11 Memorial & Museum remains operational. The 9/11 Tribute Museum, located a few blocks away, has closed.

The invaluable artifacts on display in the Tribute Museum will be rehoused at the New York State Museum in the state capital of Albany, according to reports.

Some have expressed hope that news of the closure will prompt public leaders and/or private donors to finance the museum and keep it solvent so that future generations will better understand what happened on that day. A Change.org petition to support the museum has already gathered almost 35,000 signatures.

On September 11, 2001, Islamic terrorists affiliated with al Qaeda, led at the time by Osama bin Laden, hijacked airliners and intentionally flew them into the Twin Towers in NYC and the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. A fourth hijacked plane was diverted from the hijackers' course by the flight crew and airplane passengers. It crashed to the ground in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Nearly 3,000 people died in the attacks, and several thousand others were injured. The 21st anniversary of the event is just a few weeks away.

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