More pain, another search of Ground Zero for remains

City officials promise to look again after utility workers find bones

October 21, 2006|By Zachary R. Dowdy | Zachary R. Dowdy,Newsday

NEW YORK -- Outraged relatives of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks - saying the revelation that more remains of victims have been found sparks the fresh pain of a reopened wound - demanded again yesterday that New York City launch a comprehensive search and give their loved ones a proper burial.

City leaders, meanwhile, huddled in a closed-door meeting where they vowed to conduct a new search of underground sites similar to the manhole where Consolidated Edison workers stumbled upon the remains two days ago.

The relatives also called for state and federal investigations into the failure to collect remains from Ground Zero, saying the fact that more were found five years after the terrorist attacks - and for the second time in the past year - is unacceptable and suggests the city does not take the task seriously.

`Physically ill'

"We cannot stress strongly enough that we are outraged by the continued cavalier attitude toward the retrieval of human remains," Diane Horning said at a news conference yesterday. "This new development makes us all physically ill and fills us with renewed pain."

Horning's son, Matthew, 26, was killed in the attacks.

Horning said that part of her son's body was found more than four years ago not far from where the bones were pulled from the manhole.

"Oh, my God, is that more of Matthew?" she said yesterday of the latest discovery. "But it's been sitting there for over five years."

The latest clash between families and officials came a day after the discovery of bones in a manhole at the 16-acre site on West Street, including remains as big as arm or leg bones, and personal effects such as a wallet, officials said.

In March, construction workers found bone fragments from Sept. 11 victims in roofing materials at the condemned Deutsche Bank building next to Ground Zero.

Deputy Mayor for Administration Edward Skyler said the 90-minute emergency meeting held in City Hall - with agency heads such as Chief Medical Examiner Charles Hirsch, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta and Environmental Protection Commissioner Emily Lloyd, among others - was "productive," and he defended the recovery effort launched after the two towers crumbled.

"The recovery effort after 9/11 was one of our city's finest hours," he said in a statement. "We will continue to conduct this important work in the same dignified and caring manner as we did in the past, befitting those we lost and this great city."

Skyler said Con Ed and Verizon will inspect several other manholes and underground areas near West Street, where the most recent find occurred, and remove materials that might be found. The city's medical examiner will be on site to examine any material recovered to identify human remains.

He also said the Department of Design and Construction and the Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center will review underground areas that were searched right after the attacks and identify sites that might have been missed.

Difficult to identify

In all, about 20,000 pieces of human remains have been found, officials said, but the DNA in thousands of the fragments - some just slivers of bone - was too damaged to yield identities of victims.

Relatives of at least five victims attended the news conference at the offices of attorney Norman Siegel, who represents WTC Families for Proper Burial and has filed a lawsuit against the city calling for a search and burial. The remains of more than 1,100 of the 2,749 victims have not been recovered.

"The time has come for all to recognize that no matter how well-intentioned the effort to locate and identify human remains as a result of the 9/11 attack at the World Trade Center was, the painful reality is that it was, and continues to be, inadequate," Siegel said. "It is clear that more needs to be done - and done now."

Alexander Santora, whose son, Christopher, 23, was killed in the attacks, said: "It's like a wound that has been reopened - It constantly keeps coming back."

Zachary R. Dowdy writes for Newsday.

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