What Do You Think This Is, America? 9/11 Memorial Not a Place to Ask Questions


why do you hate freedom so much?

In the received narrative of 9/11, the attacks were all about being hated for our freedoms—our free speech, our free press, our free commerce. (Go shop, live your lives, President Bush said after the attacks.) Thirteen years later, a 9/11 memorial is open at the former site of the World Trade Center and it isn't feeling like a place intended to practice those freedoms.  Gothamist's Jen Chung reports about an apparent "no questions" rule at the memorial:

Towards the middle of the exhibit, I overheard some loud voices. A young woman was berating a middle-aged woman who was talking on the cellphone. The middle-aged woman moved herself—and her conversation—to a corner of the room, her light, almost jovial phone chatter echoing loudly around the room. Finally, she got off the phone, and the young woman, who appeared to be disgusted, called her "disrespectful." I approached the young woman and said, "Hi, I'm a reporter. I was wondering, what happened just now?"

The young woman began to answer, but then a security guard interrupted us, asking, "What are you? You're a reporter?" I said yes, and he told me, "You can't ask any questions. You have to go through the 9/11 Memorial people." I said okay and left the woman alone.

I continued to walk through the exhibit, and a second guard came up to me. "You're the reporter?" he said. "You can't ask questions here. You can't." I said I understood and reassured him I had only spoken to one person, and she seemed perfectly willing to talk.

A third guard picked Chung up after she left the bathroom and told her he had to escort her out of the building. The museum's vice president for communications later explained to Chung that he had to clear all "media access" and that the museum rules prohibited harassing visitors who didn't want to be interviewed. Chung notes talking on a cellphone was prohibited too.

Earlier this week, meanwhile, the museum was the target of outrage for its gift shop, which sells 9/11-themed souvenirs like FDNY [Fire Department of New York] hats and NYPD [New York Police Department] charms. Critics didn't like the idea of commerce at the museum, even though proceeds from gift sales are supposed to go to fund the museum.