NEW YORK, NY (CNN) - There's a first for everything, it seems. Students from a New York junior high school were booted out of the Nine-Eleven Memorial for bad behavior. And Mary Snow reports, the incident has revealed a difference in philosophy about how the memorial should be run.
The 9/11 memorial has drawn 3 million visitors since it opened last year. But it's in the middle of a controversy after a junior high class of students was kicked out last week, accused of throwing trash into one of the reflecting pools honoring those killed on September 11th. Jim Riches, who lost his son Jimmy, a firefighter in the attacks, calls the desecration deplorable. He's been an outspoken critic of the memorial and blames the people running it.
When you enter, you should be talked to; they should tell you this is hallowed ground. The families feel it sacred and you know, give a little education. Instead, they send them out to a park like atmosphere, waterfalls, trees, people laying on the grass. There's no real control in there. I find them at fault also.
The principal of a Brooklyn junior high school apologized for her student’s behavior, but admits in a letter to the memorial there was not a lack of preparation; there was a lack of decorum and respect. The 9/11 memorial points out that when visitors go online to get passes, they are given information and rules on prohibited behavior, reminding people that the 9/11 memorial is a place of solemn reflection.
We asked one worker, who didn't want to be identified, about visitors to the memorial.
No, sometimes yes, sometime no. It's a lot of people come over here, ya know, different groups, different country. They come in like, uhh, this is a park. We can not consider everybody the same way.
Anthoula Katsimatides, a 9/11 Memorial Board Member who lost her brother on September 11th, sees the people lying on the grass at the memorial in a very different way.
Although it is a place of solemn remembrance, it's also a place of hope and, you know, re-affirming life. I mean that was the whole premise behind the type of memorial we have was all these life affirming elements, the water, the sky, the grass was to provide that sense of hope.
The board member we spoke with says the board is concerned and dedicated to ensuring that the atmosphere at the memorial is one of respect. And she says efforts to educate people will go along way once the museum is open. It's unclear when that will happen. Mary Snow, CNN, New York.