Tragedy and tourism: 9/11 memorial draws millionth visitor
Less than four months after opening, the National September 11 Memorial at the World Trade Center site has welcomed its one millionth visitor, as the scar from the nation’s worst terrorist attack continues to heal -- and become a significant tourist draw.
According to a post on the memorial’s website, visitors came from all 50 U.S. states and from 120 countries to view the memorial since it opened to the public on Sept. 12.
“For 10 years, people were only able to walk the perimeter of the World Trade Center site, stealing glances at the progress through construction fences,” 9/11 Memorial President Joe Daniels stated. “More than 1 million people have returned to this sacred ground to pay their respects, and are able to witness the rebuilding of the World Trade Center all around them. It humbles us to see that the public's will to commemorate the victims of 9/11 is as strong as ever.”
Nearly 3,000 people died in the coordinated attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, when four passenger jets were hijacked by 19 terrorists from Al Qaeda. Two planes were crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, and both towers collapsed within hours.
A third plane crashed into the Pentagon in Arlington, Va. Passengers attempted to retake control of the fourth plane before it could reach Washington, D.C., forcing it to crash in a field near Shanksville, Penn.
There have been annual commemorations at all three sites but this year’s was especially poignant, with President Obama and his predecessor, President Bush, leading the nation in mourning on the 10th anniversary. The next day, the site opened to the public.
The number of visitors has grown quickly, but there are still some questions associated with the tribute.
Work at a planned museum at the World Trade Center site has been halted because of a financial dispute, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg said this week that the museum likely will not open on time next year.
The museum was supposed to open on Sept. 11, 2012, but the National September 11 Memorial & Museum foundation has been fighting with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey over who is responsible for infrastructure costs related to the project.
-- Michael Muskal
Photo: The panels containing names of the victims of the terrorist attacks can be seen at the Sept. 11 memorial. Officials announced that since it opened in September, more than 1 million people have visited. Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images