Put 9/11 remains at Ground Zero


The unidentified remains of the victims of 9/11 that now rest in refrigeration trucks next to the city medical examiner's office must be returned to Ground Zero.
Seventeen months have passed since 9/11, and it appears that many New Yorkers are still unable to come to grips with the reality of that horrible day. It might be useful to remember the devastation and enormous loss of life when the twin towers collapsed. Each tower came down in about 10 seconds, killing more than 2,700 of our loved ones.

I know of no other incident in history in which so many died in such a short period of time. Their bloodshed consecrated, made forever sacred, Ground Zero.

During the following nine months, recovery workers toiled day and night to locate the remains, trying to bring solace to the families. Their efforts resulted in the recovery of 292 whole bodies and 19,993 body parts. Medical examiners have identified 1,468 of our loved ones; 1,327 grieving families still await word.

The identification process may go on for several years, so it is only fitting that the families at least be afforded the opportunity to visit their loved ones' remains at the place where they died.

Our loved ones were murdered by people who had no regard for innocent life. Are we now to be injured by people from our own nation who have no sympathy for the victims of terrorism? If Ground Zero were located in a country such as France, Greece or Italy, where people revere their sacred ground and memorialize their honored dead, there would be no need for this discussion.

Some have voiced concern that returning the remains to Ground Zero will make the area gloomy and unappealing. I contend that if the repository that houses the remains is a reverential, esthetically pleasing edifice, it will add dignity and beauty to the memorial complex. The memorial itself should be the centerpiece of anything built on the site, and everything there should complement the memorial.

To those who proposed that only a symbolic portion of the remains be returned to the site, I ask what selection process they would use to determine which remains should receive this privilege.

To those who say they don't want the remains returned because their children were traumatized by 9/11, I reply that they have their children with them. We do not. They can hug their children and nurture them through this terrible time. We can do this only in memory.

And to all those who object to bringing the remains to Ground Zero, I ask, where else would you keep them? What other site could possibly be appropriate?

My family was blessed in that the body of our firefighter son Michael was recovered March 21. He was found 15 feet above bedrock on the footprint of Tower 2, so we know the exact location. We have had the opportunity to visit this location several times in the past year, and in this sacred place we have had a measure of peace for a while.

In conversations with surviving families, I have heard many say that when they were allowed onto the floor of the bathtub on the first anniversary of 9/11, it was the most moving and peaceful time they have experienced in their grieving.

The bereaved families of those who died on 9/11 will exercise their moral authority to ensure that the unidentified remains are returned to their proper resting place at Ground Zero.

We rely on the promises Gov. Pataki made to us, namely, that only a memorial will be built on the tower footprints and, as he stated in a recent meeting with the families, that he is 100% behind returning the remains to this sacred site.

Lynch is vice president of the
9/11 Widows' and Victims' Families' Association.

Originally published on March 10, 2003