The Unidentified Victims of 9/11: Where should their remains go?

 Image from

Image from

I recently visited New York City for a book conference. As fate would have it, it was the same day President Obama was in the city to open the new 9/11 Memorial Museum. What an impressive facility for the world to see! It won’t be too long until the entire area will be complete - the beautiful landscaped accents with impressive new architectural lines and shapes. But with every change of this nature there is bound to be some controversy. 

The day I was there the media emphasized the protestors who lined the promenade stretching for blocks. They were objecting to the fact that over 8,000 unidentified body parts were being transferred from the morgue at 30th & 3rd to the newly constructed area previously occupied by the World Trade Center. The commission had decided to store these remains in a specially-built repository in the basement of the newly constructed museum. While the museum is open to the general public, the New York Times states:

"Museum and city officials say that the repository is under the jurisdiction of the New York City medical examiner’s office, and is separated from the museum by a wall. It will not be open to the general public, but only to victims’ relatives, who will be able to visit a “reflection room” there."

Many of those protestors held up signs saying, “Now the government wants to dictate burial policies,” and other messages of disapproval. There were no sign supporting the decision.

The newly constructed area, complete with the museum, is impressive to say the least. But the families of those victims yet to be identified were not consulted in determining where the ‘final’ resting place would be for those body parts. No discussion was presented over whether or not this area would be refrigerated, frozen, etc. Certainly if these body parts contained any residual soft tissue, refrigeration would be imperative to avoid any malodors that would be certain to permeate the walls of the beautiful museum.

So this controversy is filled with various opinions. Many have suggested that the 1,000 out of 3,000 should have just been buried in one massive grave with a suitable marker memorializing the event. But not America. We were determined to use every last effort of 21st century forensic science to positively identify as many souls as was humanly possible. The remnants of those unidentified would remain together, until newer technology across the horizon might yield further answers to the mysteries that, up to this point, remain sinisterly untold.

So, what should the commission have decided? Without question, there will always be naysayers who would raise doubt or question any decision, no matter how thoroughly thought out or discussed.  Some of the families of the unidentified victims felt like these pieces were being treated like biohazardous waste to be locked away in some type of hermetically sealed vault until another day.

What do you think? What vote would you have decided if you had been serving on that commission? Let’s see what some of the rest of you have to say about this ever so sensitive subject. Leave your comments and thoughts below!