Visiting the 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York City

The 9/11 Memorial Museum, is one of New York’s newest visitor attractions, open to the public in May 2014. Although it sounds quite odd to call it an attraction, indeed even have it listed as a tourist attraction,

Background into the Museum

The Museum is built on the site, where the former Twin Towers (World Trade Center 1 and 2), as well as various other buildings on the World Trade Center complex once stood. Formally known as Ground Zero, following the aftermath of the events of that awful day, where almost 3,000 people lost their lives.

One World Trade Center (otherwise known as the Freedom Tower); the newest building to the New York skyline on the site of the former twin tower, as seen from Battery Park. An observatory is set to open at the end of next month.


The Memorial Foundation was set up immediately after the events of 9/11, and its mission is as follows (information taken from 9/11 memorial website)

  • Remember and honor the thousands of innocent men, women, and children murdered by terrorists in the horrific attacks of February 26th 1993 and September 11th 2001

  • Respect this place made sacred through tragic loss.

  • Recognize the endurance of those who survived, the courage of those who risked their lives to save others, and the compassion of all who supported us in our darkest hours.

  • May the lives remembered, the deeds recognized, and the spirit reawakened be eternal beacons, which reaffirm respect for life, strengthen our resolve to preserve freedom, and inspire an end to hatred, ignorance and intolerance.

I will always remember the events of my day on September 11th 2001; I had returned after school, and went out to complete my evening paper round. When I returned, my mum had told me: “a plane has crashed into the World Trade Center in New York“. I had no idea what the World Trade Center was, but it sounded like a significant building. I then watched the news, with horror.

Naturally then, when I visited New York recently, like many other visitors; the Museum was on the list of places visit, so we spent an afternoon there, walking around outside and inside the Museum.

I am not really sure where I stand on this kind of dark/disaster tourism. On one hand, it is part of the very fabric of that city, and highlights events in history. It gives an insight into where you are, the past, and where the place is going in the future.

During my time in Cambodia, I went to the Killing Fields and the S-21 prison, and although the events of the Khmer Rouge happened long before my time,  it is truly one of the most horrific sites I have visited. One thing that did strike me during this time, was how it was marketed, and how every tuk tuk driver and his dog would ask you, with a smile on his face “are you wanting to visit the Killing Fields today” as if what happened didn’t matter, but I came to the conclusion that as a visitor attraction, it was one of the main ways locals can make money.

Advertising for the 9/11 Memorial Museum was a little different; although it is an attraction part of the New York City Pass, it didn’t feel overly gimmicky or tourist focused. There is a gift shop (which I didn’t visit), where you could buy materials associated with the Museum and the events of 9/11. This has been cited as being distasteful, and not respectful of the disaster, particularly by a number of local residents and families of the victims. 

Apart from books that give an insight into the history of an event, I am against this kind of tourism, and think that it is highly inappropriate.

The Museum

Two reminding steel columns from the World Trade Center, at the entrance of the Museum

The Museum is built on the former site of the World Trade Center, and the Museum is accessed via a staircase that goes 70 feet underground, and has a thousands of images and artifacts (some of which are incredibly personal, such as wallets, clothing and watches), as well as videos or audible stories from survivors, or those that died (including voice messages left on the phones of loved ones). It was all incredibly sad.

“No day shall erase you from the memory of time” – Virgil. Behind this wall is the remains of unidentified victims. This has caused some controversy from the victims families.

We spent approximately 2 hours wandering around, listening, looking and reflecting. It was truly horrible to see and hear it all over again. It made me wonder what families and friends of those who died here, think about the Museum. If I had lost a loved one here, I don’t think I would want to visit, or be reminded of the events of such a tragic day.

The reminder of a fire truck, removed from the site, following the collapse of the buildings. Sadly, all members of ladder company 3 all died on September 11th.
The last column standing – this was left, following the collapse of the twin towers, and became a symbol of hope for families and friends, who adorned the wall with messages of support.

The Memorial Pools


Sitting on the sites of WTC towers 1 and 2, and an acre in size, are two Memorial Pools, also known as the reflecting pools, which has a free flowing fountain into a smaller square in the middle.

Along each of the sides of the pools are all the names of those who died during 9/11.

When I saw these pools, it occurred to me how big the World Trade Center Towers were, and how awful it would have been to have been caught up in this disaster.


A ticket to the 9/11 Museum – $24. Image by Jess from

The cost of the Museum is $24, which has been criticised by many as being too expensive. We didn’t find this too expensive for an attraction, in comparison to other places.


On Tuesdays from 5pm, you can get into the Museum, until it closes.

If you don’t fancy visiting the Museum, you can always walk around the outside, and sit by the reflection pools.

There is also a 9/11 Memorial foundation, which if you’d like, you can become a member of, or donate to for ongoing museum costs.


  1. Book your tickets in advance online, if you don’t have a New York Pass (which gives you 42% off and often fast tracks you through the queue). We showed up at 2.30pm, and queued for 15 minutes, bought our tickets and were told to return for a 4pm entry.
  2. It goes without saying, but be respectful – you are on a site where thousands of people died. I saw a number of visitors taking selfies, beside articfacts and pictures of the devastation on that day. Silent reflection is key. Furthermore, there are areas within the Museum that do not allow cameras, or video recorders; abide by these rules, for a good visit.
Abbi from life in a rucksack, reflecting at the 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York


Have you visited the 9/11 Memorial Museum, or the former Ground Zero site? What are your thoughts on this kind of tourism?

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