World News – More than a dozen years after 9/11, the unidentified remains of World Trade Center victims returned to ground zero Saturday after a solemn ride through Manhattan. The relocation from the city medical examiner’s office prompted an outcry from some victim families, with one ripping the move as “a national disgrace.”
The fire engine, along with the NYPD and PA trucks, each carried a coffin-sized military transfer case to the site where the twin towers once rose 110 stories above the city.
The flag-draped cases were then removed from the vehicles and carried through the plaza outside the 9/11 museum as construction workers around the new One World Trade Center paused.
Ten firefighters stood and saluted as the remains were brought past family members — the only people allowed in the plaza for the understated ceremony.
“It was very respectful,” said Rose Foti, whose firefighter son Robert died in the terrorist attack. “The police and firemen lined up. They brought three coffins in. Everyone was silent. Then they brought them down the stairs.”
Some of the relatives clutched photos of the lost, while some 10 protesters held signs denouncing the transfer of the remains to an underground location in the same building that houses the National September 11 Memorial Museum.
“We would like to see remains moved above ground in a repository akin to the tomb of the unknowns,” said retired Deputy Fire Chief Jim Riches. “On the plaza, to add a little respect and dignity.”
Riches griped that access to the remains for many would come with a $24 admission fee to the museum: “That’s a disgrace. A national disgrace.”
Family members will have free access through the medical examiner’s office.
Riches’ son Jimmy was one of the 343 firefighters killed when the towers collapsed. Authorities say 1,115 of the 2,753 people killed downtown on 9/11 remain unidentified.
The medical examiner will retain access to the 7,930 fragmentary remains in hopes that advances in technology can help with identification.
Charles Wolfe, whose wife Katherine was killed, was among those hailing the decision to return the unidentified victims to the place where they perished.
“We have this beautiful memorial, and we all asked for the remains to come back to sacred bedrock,” said Wolfe. “Until you find out who they are, and the family accepts those remains, where are you going to put them?”
Wolfe was a member of the family advisory council that suggested relocating the remains in 2003.
The protesters put strips of black cloth over their mouths before heading into the plaza. Sally Regenhard said she was outraged by the decision to place the remains inside the museum.
“We want a proper memorialization of the dead,” said Regenhard, mother of late FDNY member Christian. “We’re here because it’s an atrocity to put human remains of heroes and victims in a museum.”
BY JOSEPH STEPANSKY , ERIK BADIA , LARRY MCSHANE
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
picture from ANDREW BURTON/GETTY IMAGES