Public 'overwhelmed' as 9/11 museum opens

Public 'overwhelmed' as 9/11 museum opens

New York's 9/11 museum opened to the general public today, praised by early visitors as an overwhelming and beautiful tribute to the survivors and nearly 3,000 victims.

The National September 11 Memorial Museum, built into the bedrock of the World Trade Center Twin Towers, documents the attacks, their impact and legacy with 10,000 artifacts.

It was inaugurated last week at a ceremony attended by President Barack Obama but today ordinary Americans and foreign visitors got their first chance to visit.

Many of the first to emerge said they were reduced to tears by exhibits that include a crushed fire engine, powerful photographs and voice messages of those who were killed.

"I just cried. It makes you very sad when you see that up there in front of you," said Joseph McAuliffe, a 64-year-old senior probation officer from Jersey City.

Damaris Rodriguez, 61, who works for the New York state health department and whose daughter Amy is a 9/11 survivor, said she came to find peace.

"I thought it was amazing. It was very overwhelming," she told reporters, saying that the experience had brought the horror of that day rushing back.

Amy, who worked for Lehman Brothers, survived because she was late for work that day, coming out of the subway just as the first tower collapsed.

She was also survived the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and is now a teacher, too traumatized to visit herself.

"It was beautifully done. It was like pulling punches in the stomach," said Shannon Bailey, 43, an actor who was in New York on 9/11.

"It made me feel like I was going to a funeral."

But the museum has been no stranger to controversy. Its own religious advisors criticized its depiction of Al-Qaeda for being linked too closely to Islam.

Some 9/11 families have also been upset about a lack of dignity in transferring thousands of unidentified remains of victims to an underground repository at the site.

Amateur historian Todd Fine said the museum ignored the neighborhood's Arab American heritage in the early 20th century and failed to put Al-Qaeda into proper context.

By defining the terror network as "Islamist" and describing America's enemies in religious terms, it was fanning the risk of hate crime and stigmatizing Arab Americans, he said.

"When I saw that section about Islamism I became very scared," he told reporters, complaining that the museum should be federally run and leading historians consulted.But many other visitors told AFP they avoided that section. 

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