By Jonathan Allen
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The online reservation system for the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York went live on Monday, allowing visitors to book their free pass to the site which opens on the tenth anniversary of the attacks.
The reservation system at www.911memorial.org has been designed to help avoid crowding at the site, where the number of visitors will initially be limited to 1,300 to 1,500 at any one time as construction work on the new World Trade Center skyscrapers continues.
"Within the first hour there were 5,000 reservations made," said Michael Frazier, a memorial spokesman.
The memorial's focal point is two large reflecting pools fed by cascading waterfalls in the footprints of the fallen twin towers.
Bronze panels will list the names of the 2,982 killed at the Pentagon and the World Trade Center in 2001, including first responders, the passengers and crew of the four hijacked planes, and the victims of the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.
The memorial will be formally opened to victims' families on September 11 this year, and will then welcome the general public the following day.
Although organizers say the memorial will always be free of charge to visit, they are considering either charging admission or asking visitors to make a suggested donation to the accompanying museum when it opens in 2012.
Joe Daniels, the president and CEO of the memorial and museum, told members of New York's City Council last month that museum admission could be around $20 unless he is able to secure sufficient funding from other sources, including federal funding.
Some council members said they feared an admission charge could be prohibitively expensive for some New Yorkers and other visitors.
The annual cost of the memorial and museum was expected to be between $50 million and $60 million.
(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Jerry Norton)