Housing unidentified 9/11 victims’ remains in museum proves controversial

HOST INTRO: The remains of over one thousand people killed in the World Trade Center attacks have never been identified. For over a decade, the city has struggled to identify the remains it does have. Tomorrow those remains will be moved to a room in the new 9/11 museum, which opens next week. As Chris Mathias reports, many of the victims’ families are protesting.

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MATHIAS: I’m standing at the entrance to the 9/11 memorial and museum in lower Manhattan. Tomorrow morning a solemn procession of police officers and firefighters will arrive here. With them, officials from the medical examiner’s office will be carrying nearly 8000 vacuum-sealed pouches filled with pieces of bone. These pouches will then be taken 70 feet below ground to a repository in the 9/11 museum.

BURKE:  Should they be returned to Ground Zero at all? I just thought you don’t really inter remains at the place of the violent end. (00:08)

Michael Burke’s brother was a firefighter killed in the 9/ll attacks. His remains were never identified. Michael isn’t sure if his brother is in any of those pouches.

The remains will be stored in a private room in the museum. Families of the victims will be allowed to visit an adjacent “reflection” room. The public will not be allowed to visit this room. Some families held a protest on Thursday near Ground Zero. They say the museum is not the place for the remains.

But not everyone is opposed. Monica Iken lost her husband Michael on 9/11. She told CBS the museum is in memory of those lost that day.  It’s exactly where Michael’s remains should be kept.

IKEN: I’m here for Michael and all those who are not here and really to honor them and give them a sense of peace now that they’re finally back where they belong. (0:18)

Charles Strozier is a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. He says there’s a simple reason for this whole debate.

STROZIER: The dilemma of what to do with the body parts exists because for the first time in history we have body parts. And the reason we have body parts – the reason they’re preserved is because we have DNA analysis. So it’s turned out it’s both a blessing and a curse 0:14

The medical examiner’s office will continue to conduct DNA tests on the remains in hopes that more identifications can be made. The museum will open to families of the victims on May 15. It will open to the public on May 21.

Chris Mathias, Columbia Radio News.

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