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Family Members Seeking Human Remains Receive Only Silence

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 28, 2006 8:13 pm    Post subject: Family Members Seeking Human Remains Receive Only Silence
From Fri Jul 28, 2006 3:00 am to Fri Aug 04, 2006 2:59 am (included)
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The Skyscraper Safety Campaign


July 28, 2006

Contact: Sally Regenhard, Chairperson, Skyscraper Safety Campaign


Subject: Family Members Seeking Human Remains at GZ

Receive Only Silence

9/11 family members today asked attorney Norman Siegel to send letters to the LMDC and the NYC Medical Examiner’s Office to express their deep concern and common frustration regarding the failure to grant access to experts chosen by the families to independently observe efforts to locate human remains in the Deutsche Bank building at Ground Zero. (see letter below)

The groups represented by this letter are: 9/11 Parents & Families of Firefighters & WTC Victims, The Skyscraper Safety Campaign, WTC Families for Proper Burial, Where To Turn.org, and Advocates for a 9/11 Fallen Heroes Memorial

Sally Regenhard stated: “Parents and families of the 1, 152 victims whose remains were never recovered are devastated to realize that remains of their loved ones are still present at Ground Zero & other locations. There have been in excess of 700 human remains found on the roof of the Deutsche Bank after this site was declared free of such remains years ago. We have the right to bring in the professional experts who can monitor our last chance to find our loved ones at GZ. This is our right.”


Norman Siegel
Attorney at Law
260 Madison Avenue, 20th Floor
New York, New York 10016
(212) 532-7586

July 28, 2006

Mr. Kevin Rampe, Chairman of the Board
Mr. Stefan Pryor, President
Lower Manhattan Development Corporation
One Liberty Plaza, 20th Floor
New York, New York 10006
Fax: 212.962.2431

Dr. Charles S. Hirsh, M.D.
Ms. Ellen Borakove, Director, Public Affairs
Office of the Chief Medical Examiner
520 First Avenue
New York, New York 10016
Fax: 212.447.2755


Dear Mr. Rampe, Mr. Pryor, Dr. Hirsh and Ms. Borakove,

I am writing on behalf of 9/11 Parents & Families of Firefighters and WTC Victims, Advocates for 9/11 Fallen Heroes, The Skyscraper Safety Campaign, Where-to-Turn.org, and WTC Families for Proper Burial, Inc.. All share a common frustration, and asked me to convey their disappointment with the process that has failed to adequately locate and identify the remains of many of the victims of September 11.

Almost from the start of the recovery effort approximately five years ago, the families of September 11 victims have been met with resistance from agencies responsible for locating and identifying body parts from the World Trade Center debris. Understandably, these families, particularly those of the 1,152 victims whose remains were never found, want to provide their loved ones with proper and dignified burials. However, with looming uncertainty about the efficacy of the procedures employed and the possibility that many body parts will be overlooked or remain unidentified for years to come, these families cannot provide the proper and decent burials their family members deserve.

September 11 families were forced to take legal action regarding human remains at Fresh Kills when their reasonable request that the city provide a proper and decent burial in a place of honor and/or locate and identify victims’ body parts by sifting or resifting through the debris was ignored. That case is still pending in federal court.

Currently, controversy surrounds recovery of body parts on the rooftop and throughout the Deutsche Bank building. Over two years ago, the City of New York and its agencies searched that building and certified that it was free of human remains. In July 2006, however, media reports quoted city officials who said that in the past few months, more than 700 body parts had been located in and on the Deutsche Bank building. Further, anthropologists Dr. Richard Gould and Dr. Ann Marie Mires, experts in bio/archeological recovery of this nature, informed Mayor Bloomberg, Governor Pataki and Stefan Pryor via letter that, based upon public photographs and information received from different authorities and sources, that the tools and procedure currently used to search for body parts may not meet even the minimum standards of forensic or archaeological science. That is simply unacceptable. The families fear that the current recovery process is inadequate and negligently performed. They have called publicly for an independent evaluation of the manner in which the work is being done.

Ellen Borakove, spokeswoman for the OCME, stated that families would be permitted to send a specialist to observe the recovery. On July 15, I was present when Dr. Gould publicly volunteered his time and services to the families. That same day, the families formally accepted Ms. Borakove’s invitation, and named Dr. Gould and his associate, Dr. Mires, as their representatives.

Two weeks have passed since the seemingly amicable resolution to grant Dr. Gould access to the Deutsche Bank building to observe the collection and identification procedures. I understand through correspondence that the OCME wrote the LMDC to confirm the protocol Dr. Gould and his team would have to follow, but the OCME remains stalled due to incomplete paperwork, leaving Dr. Gould excluded from the site.

This has gone on long enough. These families have waited almost five years to receive the remains of their loved ones. Paperwork should take no more than a day.

On July 26, you informed the families that collection and identification of body parts were complete in the top layer of debris on the roof. Your actions make it appear that you are simply dragging your feet, creating unnecessary hurdles for families who have already persevered through unspeakable devastation, to delay Dr. Gould’s observation until there is nothing left to observe. Again, this is entirely unacceptable, and it creates the appearance you are reluctant to follow through with your offer to the families just to protect yourselves from public scrutiny.

With each new revelation and contradictory report regarding the status of the recovery effort, the deep wounds of the September 11 tragedy and the memory of loved ones torn from their families are reopened. Each day the protocol is not followed adequately erodes the possibility of locating and identifying human remains. Additionally, more and more people lose trust and faith in the process, become alienated, and grow cynical that government, specifically Governor Pataki and Mayor Bloomberg, do not respect their loss or the lives of the victims. Continuation of the status quo will only fuel the families’ anger. This is a divisive issue in a situation where we cannot stand for further division.

As city officials insist the recovery is being handled with the appropriate concern for the delicate subject matter, the LMDC has no reason to resist independent observers to confirm claims that the work is being done up to acceptable standards and, if possible, to reassure the families that this is so.

Failure to properly locate and identify the remains of the September 11 victims is wrongful and unacceptable. The LMDC has a responsibility to those who lost their lives, and to their families, to recover all human remains for identification from the Deutsche Bank building and from all areas that may contain body parts from the World Trade Center attack, including ground zero and the surrounding buildings, which have yet to be properly searched. As an important step, the only way to ensure that the implemented process is adequate at the Deutsche Bank building is to have Dr. Gould and his team observe it.

I call on you to follow through on the public representation that Dr. Gould would be allowed to serve as the observer for the families. If your delay is really just a matter of paperwork, I will gladly meet with you this weekend to assist in filling out the necessary forms. Otherwise, I strongly urge you to immediately expedite the protocol paperwork and enable Dr. Gould and Dr. Mires to observe and assess the process of locating and identifying body parts at the Deutsche Bank building no later than Tuesday, August 1.

I await your response.


Norman Siegel
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