May 22, 2014 9:27 am

Outcry as VIP cocktail party reportedly held at 9/11 museum

Surviving firefighter Dan Potter's fire helmet, which he used at Ground Zero on September 11, is viewed during a tour the National September 11 Memorial Museum on May 14, 2014 in New York City.

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TORONTO – Reports of attendees “drinking, eating and laughing” at a private party at the 9/11 museum in New York Tuesday has sparked outrage among families of victims and the public.

READ MORE: Inside the 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York

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According to the Daily News, on the eve of its grand opening to the public, approximately 60 guests were invited to the cocktail affair on the site containing the remains of 1,115 unidentified victims who died Sept. 11, 2001.

“They were drinking, eating and laughing when this is pretty much a grave site,” a museum employee reportedly told American newspaper. “I don’t think alcohol should be allowed in there. It’s a sacred ground and they desecrated it.”

The museum, situated at the spot in Manhattan which became known as ground zero following the events of September 11, 2001, is seen as the latest in a series of memorials-as-museums that seek to honour the dead while presenting a full, fair history of the event that killed them.

Among the reported guests “who nibbled crab cakes and shrimp cocktail hors d’oeuvres at the black tie affair” were former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg and “Bloomberg and Condé Nast honchos.”

The latest reports come after some early visitors have already criticized the merchandise on sale in the museum’s gift shop which includes items for sale like a black twin towers hoodie emblazoned with the words, “In darkness we shine brightest,” a silk scarf printed with a full-colour twin towers design and a search & rescue dog toy.

The newspaper also claims that sources told them that some first responders “were turned away during party preparations” and that the museum’s lower level was turned into a bar for the event.

A woman places a hand on the names engraved along the South reflecting pool at the Ground Zero memorial site during the dedication ceremony of the National September 11 Memorial Museum in New York May 15, 2014 in New York City.

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According to the Daily News, museum spokesman Michael Frazier said the “small gathering” was held “for donors who sponsored the five days of free previews that began last week.”

“This small gathering was done respectfully and in recognition of our supporters who helped to build the memorial and museum,” he said.

On Wednesday,  the National September 11 Memorial Museum opened to the public for the first time. The opening ceremony was capped off  by the unfurling of the National 9/11 Flag and the singing of “God Bless America.”

READ MORE: Tissues, counsellors help ease pain at 9/11 museum

The flag, which was hanging from a building near the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, was found in the days that followed.

Firefighters, police, members of the military and the public participate in the ceremonial transfer of the National 9/11 Flag into the The National September 11 Memorial Museum permanent collection on May 21, 2014 in New York City.

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The museum features videos of the twin towers collapsing, photos of people falling from them, portraits of nearly 3,000 victims and voicemail messages from people in the hijacked planes.

Ambient sounds of emergency radio transmissions and victims calling home are interspersed with the calmer tones of survivors recounting the day.

More than 42,000 9/11 victims’ relatives, survivors, rescuers and recovery workers have already visited the museum, which opened to them last Thursday.

© 2014 Shaw Media

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