The 9/11 Memorial is the site of a massive international tragedy.
It is not a tourist attraction.
It should not be third on your list of things to do in New York.
It is not a normal thing to want to see.
Having the desire to buy a 9/11 Memorial t-shirt is a sign of poor character.
If you have a personal connection to the site, if you lost someone in the attacks or were personally impacted by the wars that sprang from them, by all means, go to the memorial. But that’s not most people. Most people are gawking.
Resist the entropy of getting excited about going there.
If you’re telling yourself you want to go so your dollars can support the families, take out your checkbook. If that’s not as satisfying to you, that’s not why you’re going.
The 9/11 Memorial is the #1 thing that people ask NYC concierges about. Right after “Where’s check-in?” and right before “Where’s the bathroom?” comes “Where’s 9/11?” I don’t know why.
Would you want to visit a death camp, mass grave, or murder site while on vacation anywhere else? If you would, you probably wouldn’t ask where to buy souvenirs. If you wouldn’t, if the idea of gawking at tragedy does not truly appeal to who you are, maybe think about seeing a museum, a musical, an old neighborhood, a famous store, the firehouse from “Ghostbusters,” a bridge, a train station, a restaurant, a river, a cupcake shop, a pizza place, a fountain, a park, a statue, a building.
New York is a terrorist target because it is a singular, spectacular place to be a human being.
Don’t go see the target.
Go see what makes it a target.
And no, it does not have a fucking food court.
In theory I agree with almost everything above. But then, why go to any memorial or any historic site ever?
I went out of my way to visit the 9/11 site in summer 2002. Why? It was my second time going to NYC and the first time I kind of ignored the World Trade Center. It wasn’t as pretty as the Empire State Building or the Chrysler Building, plus my mom told me that the towers swayed and whether that was true or not, I was not down with being inside a swaying building. And then 9/11 happened, which I watched and obsessed over through my television, just like everything else. It was a tragedy but one that affected our future, and I wanted to be there to see the site with my own eyes so that I might be able to take in the damage more than I had through my television.
I’ve also visited multiple memorials, including all of the major ones in DC (or at least what was there the few times I’ve visited). I don’t snap pictures and I didn’t lose anyone close to me in most of the wars memorialized, but seeing names on a wall or spending some quiet time at a memorial (ideally) gives you time to reflect on exactly what it meant or means to our country/the world.
I’m being more sensitive because of the “gawking at tragedy” above related to the death camps. Kevin and I are likely going to Krakow when we go to Germany/Europe this summer, and he wants to see Auschwitz. For him it makes sense— it’s tied directly to what he studies. For me, I struggle— selfishly I’m not sure I can handle it emotionally, but I also think it’s important to see Auschwitz because it is an extremely significant part of our world history and reading about it in books or watching movies about it doesn’t really do it justice. I don’t see that as gawking at tragedy. I see it as reflecting on history. Is that wrong?
No, you shouldn’t go to a place like the 9/11 Memorial or Auschwitz and take a selfie or buy a shirt or pick up some Osama Bin Laden toilet paper from a vendor outside. I get it. But I just don’t think you have to be directly tied to a victim or casualty in order to have some appreciation of what happened there.