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Buzzfeed's features director, Steve Kandell, published a stirring piece on his decision to visit the 9/11 Memorial 12-and-a-half years after losing his sister in the attacks. The decision to join the other victims' families before the memorial officially opens on Wednesday was, he writes, was made more so out of anger than anything else: "Something snapped while reading about the gift shop—I didn't want to duck and hide, I wanted to run straight into the absurdity and horror and feel every bit of the righteous indignation and come out the other side raw."
Kandell doesn't come to a surprise ending of solace and reflection, either. It's not an easy read.
Everyone should have a museum dedicated to the worst day of their life and be forced to attend it with a bunch of tourists from Denmark. Annotated divorce papers blown up and mounted, interactive exhibits detailing how your mom's last round of chemo didn't take, souvenir T-shirts emblazoned with your best friend's last words before the car crash. And you should have to see for yourself how little your pain matters to a family of five who need to get some food before the kids melt down. Or maybe worse, watch it be co-opted by people who want, for whatever reason, to feel that connection so acutely.But it's not entirely devoid of revelations:
By the time I finally reach the gift shop, the indignation I've been counting on just isn't there. I stare at the $39 hoodies and the rescue vests for dogs and the earrings and the scarves and the United We Stand wool blankets waiting for that rush and can't muster so much as a sigh. The events of the day have already been exploited and sold in ways previously incomprehensible, why get mad at a commemorative T-shirt now? This tchotchke store — this building, this experience — is nothing more than the logical endpoint for our most reliably commodifiable national tragedy. If you want to bring a coffee table book full of photos of cadaver dogs sniffing through smoking rubble back home to wherever you're from, hey, that's great. This is America, you can buy what you want; they hate our freedom to buy what we want. People will find moments of grace or enlightenment or even peace from coming here, I don't need to be one of them. I'll probably bring my son one day once I realize I won't have the words to explain. It can be of use. It's fine. I don't know.It only gets darker from there.
· The Worst Day Of My Life Is Now New York's Hottest Tourist Attraction [Buzzfeed]
· 9/11 Memorial Museum Gift Shop Ignites 'Political Outrage' [Racked]