The 9/11 Tribute Museum in midtown Manhattan has closed its doors just one month before the 21st anniversary of the terrorist attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center.
The museum, six blocks south of the National September 11 Memorial Museum, featured talks and walking tours by survivors and relatives of those who died in the terrorist attack.
Originally called the 9/11 Tribute Center, it was created in 2006 by the nonprofit 9/11 Family Association and closed Wednesday. .
“It’s really unfortunate, the overcrowding of the space that we occupy is really unsustainable,” said Jennifer Adams-Webb, co-founder of the museum and CEO of the 9/11 Families Association.
Adams-Webb said the museum, which moved to its Greenwich St. in 2017, it was hit hard by the pandemic, closing completely for six months and dropping from an average of 300,000 visitors before the shutdown to 26,000 in 2021.
“It is a solvable position. We have asked the city, the state, the federal government, but so far no one has been willing to take a step,” he said.
Some of the artifacts and materials will go to the New York State Museum in Albany, with some smaller museums reusing other items from the exhibit, Adams-Webb said.
A major exhibit will have to be dismantled, photos returned to more than 500 people who lost family members on 9/11.
“I think the heart of Tribute has always been the family photo album, the gallery that had all the pictures that families sent us of their loved ones,” Adams-Webb explained.
“You see the diversity of their ages, their ethnicities and their backgrounds. It really resonates with people, the loss of that day, not just the destruction of buildings.”
“They were trying to stay until 9/11, but we have to vacate by August 31,” said Peter Bitwinski, a former employee of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and a survivor of the attacks. of 1993 and 2001 who visited the Museum.
“The impact on New York might be understated,” he said of the museum.
Bitwinski worked for more than 23 years in Tower 1 and was on the 69th floor when the building began to shake and a plane crashed into it.
“You clearly knew something bad had happened. It made me fall on my desk, I’m reeling, I’m in shock,” he recalled.
It took more than an hour and a half to get outside with the small group he escaped from, which included a disabled co-worker, being led to safety.
“We do something that no other place does with the person-to-person story. When I finish the walking tour and I’m just chatting, people come up to you and want to shake your hand, they want to hug you, there’s tears, there is a lot of emotion.”
“As you get older, people tend to deal with 9/11 differently,” said Delaney Colaio, 23, whose father and two uncles were killed on 9/11.
Colaio made a documentary about children who lost relatives in the attacks called “Let’s go higher”.
“As time goes on things start to dehumanize like any historical event,” he said. “It’s strange to experience it when I was 23 because I experienced it when I was three.
“It’s sad to hear the tribute museum is closing,” Colaio said. “I don’t know if there’s anything to be done, but I’m here to help.”
“It is a real tragedy. I think it’s unfortunate that we’re erasing history,” said 9/11 survivor Tim Frolich, 58, of Dyker Heights, Brooklyn.
“I understand the times and the financial concerns, but I think more should be done or should have been done to continue,” he said. “I think it’s equivalent to having a live encyclopedia.”
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Frolich was on the 80th floor of the South Tower when United Airlines Flight 175 hit about 10 stories above him.
“I was lucky enough to get out of the building when the building came down behind me,” he said. “Not having a place especially in the city that marks and holds the story and continues to tell that story into the future is a real loss.”
A petition linked to the museum’s website had more than 34,000 signatures, some even after it was closed.
“The 9/11 Tribute Museum, the original small 9/11 museum that delivers the story person-to-person, connecting visitors with those directly affected by the 9/11 terrorist attacks, is in jeopardy imminent closure due to the financial difficulties of the pandemic.. We need immediate help,” the petition read.
“New York Governor Kathy Hochul and New York Mayor Eric Adams have the power to save Tribute.
Please sign this petition asking these leaders to save the 9/11 Tribute Museum.”