No one group owns 9/11, but many groups have their respective claims to it. Members of the Family Association feel entitled to it, since it happened to then, and their store is an extension of that feeling: everything in it “reflects the content of the Tribute Center,” says Association representative Sari Abraham, and the proceeds get plowed back into the F.A.’s mission of helping survivors and celebrating the lives of lost loved ones. The Memorial & Museum wants—as all museums want—to own 9/11 on behalf of the public, and they too use the receipts from souvenir sales to help fund their activities.
In addition, much of the visiting public wants some personal connection to Sept. 11, and it’s our desire to memorialize the events of Sept. 11—to “never forget”—that keeps the street souvenir salesman going. Even the vendors themselves feel the pull, the need to connect themselves with the events of 9/11 in some particular and personal way. Bao, for one, is a died-in-the-wool patriot, who bristles when one of the other salesman calls him “Fidel Castro.” He has written a song with English and Spanish lyrics that he sometimes sings to prospective customers, and sometimes just for himself, or to anyone who will listen. He has a lovely tenor voice.
America no se vende, America is not for sale. We love America, We love New York.
“America no vende,” he says. “I would like that on my tomb.”