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Vendors look for balance at Sept. 11 site

Associated Press
Published November 4, 2007


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NEW YORK - Manuel Suarez's job hasn't earned him many fans. He keeps moving, to avoid catching the eye of the police. About 10 times a day, he is screamed at by strangers.

It's a lot of fuss for a souvenir seller. But Suarez's wares are Sept. 11 photo books sold to tourists at the World Trade Center site, and they spark an array of reactions as visitors see the images of smoldering ruins and pictures of people plummeting to their deaths.

People often accuse him of profiting off the dead. More often, however, they buy what he is selling.

The area around the site is a popular destination and has become a market for everything from Rolex knockoffs and Sept. 11 figurines to photo books of the destruction.

For some victims' families, the commerce is dismaying.

"To think that these people are coming here using this horrible disaster that our country suffered, to profit off it totally for themselves, is tasteless," said Lee Ielpi, who lost his firefighter son in the 2001 attack and later co-founded the Tribute WTC Visitor Center. "It should not be a place where people come and make money on the dead."

Technically, vendors are barred from the site, but enforcement is difficult.

"The police are always after me," Suarez, 25, said. "They think we're making money from this tragedy. But some people say it's good, because we give people information that they didn't know."

Alonso Bulle, visiting from Cancun, Mexico, collected several books, saying that one day he will show them to his son as a lesson in what can happen when people turn to violence.

"As long as this stays fresh in people's memory, we can avoid it to happen again," Bulle said. "We came here to pay respects."

For others, the souvenirs are a way to remember a New York unscathed by fear.

"That isn't a reminder of the tragedy as such," Berenice Caulfield said of the refrigerator magnet she bought to take home to Ireland. It shows the trade center's twin towers standing tall. "It's more of the glory of New York City."

[Last modified November 4, 2007, 02:08:02]


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