9/11 memorial: General reservations start July 11

June 10, 2011 5:31:17 PM PDT
The general public can start making reservations next month to visit the Sept. 11 memorial after the terror attacks' 10th anniversary, and victims' relatives will have special provisions to schedule visits to the monument taking shape in the World Trade Center's footprints, organizers said Friday.

Family members will be able to start making reservations July 6 , five days before the general public, and use a special phone number instead of the public's online system, the National Sept. 11 Memorial & Museum told them in an email message. An as-yet undetermined number of passes will be set aside every day for family members, and they'll be able to use a separate entrance, the museum added.

The memorial's massive, waterfall-filled reflecting pools, inscribed with the names of the nearly 3,000 people killed in the Sept. 11 attacks and the 1993 trade center bombing, are to be dedicated on the 10th anniversary in a ceremony for victims' families.

But with an estimated 4 million to 5 million visitors expected within a year as construction continues on the trade center site, the memorial has to schedule visitors for now, museum President Joe Daniels said. Organizers haven't yet settled on how many visitors will be allowed per day, but preliminary plans called for a limit of 1,500 visitors at a time.

While the idea of needing tickets to a memorial may puzzle or rankle some, it was being done only to manage when people come to visit, Daniels said, noting that the passes will be free.

"Having these kinds of procedures will make it safe for people to go to the memorial, pay their respects and see the construction happening around them," he said.

And there is plenty of construction. The 1,776-foot 1 World Trade Center, formerly known as the Freedom Tower, is being built just northwest of the memorial site and won't open until 2013. Hundreds of trees will still need to be planted, and cobblestones will need to be filled in to the 8-acre memorial plaza after Sept. 11, 2011, and its accompanying, largely underground museum is scheduled to open in 2012. A transit hub is under construction until at least 2015, along with at least one other skyscraper.

Museum board member Tom Roger, whose daughter was killed in the attacks, acknowledged that the reservation plan "is going to be part of the challenge initially."

"But for people who would complain about it ... what they need to understand is that having access at all is a privilege" given the surrounding construction, Roger added. His daughter, Jean Roger, was a flight attendant aboard one of the hijacked planes that crashed into the trade center.

He's pleased with the arrangements to give victims' families priority in scheduling and making visits. It's unclear how many people that might be, but it's expected to be a fraction of overall visitors, Daniels said.

Those who seek to use the special provisions will be asked for their relative's name and relationship to them. But organizers have pointedly shied, at least for now, from more stringent verification procedures.