President Obama and a number of other politicians joined 9/11 victims' families and first responders at the National 9/11 Memorial Museum for its official dedication ceremony this week. The museum won't open to the public until Wednesday, but relatives, rescuers, recovery workers and NY Post employees have been able to get in—and many of them aren't happy about the gift shop. "To me, it’s the crassest, most insensitive thing to have a commercial enterprise at the place where my son died," Diane Horning told the Post, referring to her son Matthew, who was working on the 95th floor of the North Tower of the WTC on September 11, 2001.

Horning and, well, the Post, are upset by the commercialism of the store, which offers everything from typical gift shop fare like key chains, mugs, mousepads and stuffed animals to more pointed "United We Stand" blankets. The Post points out some of the more offensive 'specially designed' items:

  • A black and white “Darkness Hoodie” printed with an image of the Twin Towers. The pullover, like other “Darkness” items, bears the words “In Darkness We Shine Brightest.” Price: $39.
  • Silk scarves printed with 1986 photos by Paula Barr, including a panoramic view of the Manhattan skyline. Another depicts “lunchtime on the WTC Plaza.” They go for $95 each.
  • “Survivor Tree” earrings, named after a pear tree that stood in the World Trade Center plaza and survived 9/11. Made of bronze and freshwater pearls, a pair costs $64. A leaf ornament molded from the swamp white oaks at the memorial is said to change from amber to dark brown “and sometimes pink around the time of the 9/11 anniversary.”
  • Heart-shaped rocks inscribed with slogans such as “United in Hope” and “Honor.” One rock bears a quote by Virgil that is emblazoned on a massive blue-tiled wall in the museum: “No day shall erase you from the memory of time.” It costs $39.

"Here is essentially our tomb of the unknown," Horning added. "To sell baubles I find quite shocking and repugnant...I think it’s a money-making venture to support inflated salaries, and they’re willing to do it over my son’s dead body."

The Post juxtaposes the "8,000 unidentified body parts" being stored there with FDNY vests for dogs; pointing out the "six-figure salaries for execs like CEO Joe Daniels, who takes in $378,000;" and is outraged by a plaque in the store honoring Paul Napoli and Marc Bern, who donated $5 million to the museum (and also are partners in a law firm who represented Ground Zero workers).

However, there are only two people (Horning and demolition supervisor John Feal) who are quoted on record as being upset by the gift shop—and Feal seems pretty reasoned even within his criticisms ("he understands the need to raise money for costs"). The museum has a $63 million operating budget, and "all net proceeds from [the shop's] sales are dedicated to developing and sustaining" it. People have also been upset over the mandatory $24 fee, which the museum explained by saying, "the charge was essential to ensure the organization’s financial health, especially since the museum does not receive governmental support for its operating costs."

Does the shop feel crass? Sure. Was it truly necessary? Hard to say, but there are financial realities for an institution that has no governmental support. Either way, it's also hard to tell how widespread the outrage actually is, and how much of it is manufactured anger by the Post. As several people have pointed out on Twitter today, most museums—including the Holocaust Museum—have gift shops as ways of funding.