On Saturday, May 10, 2014, the unidentified remains of more than 1,100 victims of the 9/11 World Trade Center tragedy were moved to their final resting place at ground zero. In all, more than 7,900 small sealed bags containing the remains of victims made the five-mile journey from the New York City chief medical examiner’s office back to the site where they lost their lives nearly 13 years ago.
The remains will be housed 70 feet below bedrock at ground zero on “sacred ground” adjacent to the museum in a 2,500-square-foot repository, which is located between the original sites of the twin towers. Within the repository are a medical examiner’s office and a reflection room where grieving families can go to pay their respects and mourn the loss of their loved ones, both of which will be off-limits to the public. Furthermore, no part of the victim’s remains will be on exhibit for the public to see.
Many families believe that returning the remains back to ground zero is the best thing to do; however, some strongly oppose the decision. Approximately a dozen family members gathered at ground zero on Saturday to show their disapproval as the procession arrived, escorted by police, fire and Port Authority vehicles with lights flashing. However, the family members who protested did so in silence. They interlaced their arms to form a chain, covered their mouths with black bands and said nothing. Several of them held pictures of loved ones whose remains are believed to be among the unidentified.
While the medical examiner’s office promises that the ground zero repository is a “dignified and reverential” final resting place for the unidentified victims of 9/11, some family members say it is wrong to place their deceased loved ones in what is essentially nothing more than a tourist attraction. Others fear the structure will be subject to flooding due to it being so deep underground, and some who opposed the move said they felt as though they did not have a say in the decision and that other alternatives were not adequately explored. However, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the decision to move the remains back to ground zero was one that was decided not only by city officials and his predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, but by family members of the victims as well.
In all, 2,753 people lost their lives on September 11, 2001, and of those, 41 percent have not been linked to any of the remains found at the site. This sad fact tragically leaves their families without even so much as a trace of their loved ones. Medical examiners have worked diligently trying to positively identify the remains of more than 1,100 victims of the 9/11 World Trade Center tragedy, but to date, they have been unsuccessful.
However, they say they will continue to try, and are hopeful that advances in technology, in the years to come, will help them be able to make positive identifications for all of the victims. Until then, the unidentified remains of 9/11 victims will stay housed in their final resting place at ground zero.
By Donna W. Martin