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9/11 Museum Opens to Outrage Over Gift Shop, Cocktail Reception

The National September 11 Memorial Museum opened this week to outrage among some victims' families over a gift shop at the site and a black-tie reception held close to the remains of the nearly 3,000 people killed in the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

And more controversy has erupted with news that a restaurant is opening soon inside the museum offering "an array of local, seasonal fare in a relaxing and comfortable environment," according to the museum guide.

"It's the crassest, most insensitive thing to have a commercial enterprise at the place where my son died," Diane Horning told the New York Post. She and husband Kurt never recovered the remains of their son Matthew, 26, a database administrator at the Twin Towers.

People line up to enter the 9/11 Memorial Museum on May 21, 2014 in New York.
Don Emmert | AFP | Getty Images
People line up to enter the 9/11 Memorial Museum on May 21, 2014 in New York.

The gift shop is selling fire and police T-shirts and caps, earrings molded from trees that survived the destruction, "United We Stand" blankets and even FDNY vests for dogs.

Watch: Inside the 9/11 memorial museum

But spokesman Anthony Guido said the shop is essential to keep the museum going, since it receives no federal or state funds and is financed entirely by private donations. Between 60 and 70 percent of the museum's annual operating cost of about $60 million will come from revenue generated from the gift shop and the museum's admission fee, which is $24 for an adult, he told NBCNews.com.

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Mary Fetchet, who lost her son Brad in the attack, went to the dedication of the museum last week and said she didn't think the shop detracted from the message.

"People have to recognize this was a very expensive project," she told NBCNews.com. "This has to be preserved for perpetuity so you need to raise the money. When people visit here from around the world, they want a memento to remember that day and reflect on their experience of visiting the memorial."

Fetchet noted some victims' families "were very outspoken on many issues," like the cocktail reception on Tuesday for donors and dignitaries such as ex-Mayor Michael Bloomberg. "I felt it was appropriate to hold a small reception for donors who stepped forward," she said.

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington sells educational items, such as books, films and CDs, said spokesman Andy Hollinger. But its shop also contains mementos featuring the museum's logo, such as magnets and pencils, as well as T-shirts with the insignia of U.S. Army Divisions that liberated the Nazi concentration camps.

Hollinger said the revenue helps support the museum's educational programming. However, the Holocaust Museum does receive federal funding of $52 million a year, although the rest of the $87.6 million operating budget comes from private donations and investment income.

The Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum, like the New York site, receives no federal, state or local funds. The museum honoring the victims of the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, depends on private funds and revenue from its gift store, admissions and the annual OKC Memorial Marathon.

—By Steve James of NBC News

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