National 9/11 Memorial & Museum Records Over 300,000 Visitors Since May Opening

National 9/11 Memorial & Museum Records Over 300,000 Visitors Since May Opening

Officials this week said that the National September 11 Memorial & Museum counts over 300,000 visitors since it's May opening, exceeding expectations.

The organizers see it as a strong start for the museum, that faced questions about the $24 ticket price. The attendance has topped projections by almost 5 percent since the museum opened on May 21st to the public, and six days earlier to survivors and victims' familys, said President Joe Daniels.

Joe Lock and his family visited the World Trade Center on a trip from Indiana, a month before the attack in 2001, and on returning to New York this month, Lock said that "this was one of the first things we wanted to see," as they left the National Sept. 11 Memorial Museum on Tuesday. Lock said, "It lets you heal a little bit."

The underground museum was designed as a historical, immersive complement to the waterfall pools and memorial plaza above. The museum includes profiles of the victims, recordings of survivors telling their stories, and artifacts like a giant trade center column.

Organizers hope to draw 2.5 million visitors a year. Daniels says they project 1.5 million from the opening through the rest of 2014, and the estimates will vary month to month because of tourism patterns and the museum's newness, said museum officials. Over the phone Daniels said, "We feel great about the numbers."

Attendance is key to the museum's finances. The admission fee is there to cover much of the $63 million-a-year cost of running the museum and memorial because they don't get government operating money. However, the fee has drawn criticism from some of the victims' relatives who see it as steep, though some other families say it's needed to keep the museum financially healthy.

The museum has faced some criticism since opening a few weeks ago, including complaints about a gift shop where wares initially included a U.S.-map-shaped platter with heart symbols marking where the hijacked planes struck on 9/11. The piece is no longer sold there, and Daniels has says he pledges to seek more input on products from victims' relatives on the museum board.

There are mixed feelings about the museum among New Yorkers, with some staying away. Brooklyn engineering student Ako Morie, 35, said "It's too political for me," as he took a break in midtown Manhattan. But early data show more museumgoers are from New York state than any other. Pam Gregory, who lives on Staten Island, revisiting 9/11 at the museum was "like reliving it again." "It's quite amazing - very sad, but necessary," she said. "Absolutely necessary."

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