Plan for 9/11 remains disturbs relatives of the dead

Fri Mar 9, 2012 4:58pm EST
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By Jonathan Allen

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Relatives of September 11 victims still confronted with the loss of their loved ones are fighting plans to place unidentified remains in a repository carved into the bedrock below the World Trade Center site.

The underground vault, already under construction, will house unidentified remains and be accessible only to staff of New York City's chief medical examiner's office, which will continue to attempt to identify the remains as technology improves.

The space will be adjoined by a small private room for the exclusive use of victims' families, who will be able to see into the repository -- a working laboratory as much as it is a tomb -- through a window.

The area will be sealed off from the memorial museum that will fill the rest of the mostly subterranean structure. Visitors will see only a wall bearing a quotation from Virgil's epic poem "Aeneid" wrought in steel salvaged from the fallen towers: "No day shall erase you from the memory of time."

Officials from the National September 11 Memorial & Museum Foundation say the arrangement was arrived at following extensive consultations with victims' families over the past decade.

But some families in the minority are upset at what they say was an undemocratic process and find the placement of the repository within the museum structure disrespectful, revealing how the topic of 9/11 remains fraught with emotion a decade after the attacks.

"The idea of putting the remains in a museum is just a barbaric and incomprehensible insult and really it shocks the conscience," Sally Regenhard said in an interview, describing the museum as a "macabre Ripley's Believe It or Not."

She said the unidentified remains should be interred in a "tomb-like" structure at ground level, akin to the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. She disagrees with the museum's view that the Virgil-inscribed wall is sufficient for the repository to be considered "distinct" from the museum, as per guidelines drawn up in consultation with families in 2003.   Continued...

Family and friends of those who died on Sept. 11 visit the memorial during ceremonies marking the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, in New York, September 11, 2011. REUTERS/Carolyn Cole/Pool