Remains Found at Ground Zero Prompt New Searches
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After nearly fives years of delays, there is progress toward rebuilding the World Trade Center site in New York. Construction crews are preparing foundations for the structures that will eventually replace the twin towers. But the discovery this weekend of more bone fragments threatens to complicate the process. The bones are the remains of some of those who died in the attacks on September 11, 2001.
Here's reporter Arun Venugopal of member station WNYC.
ARUN VENUGOPAL: Construction workers operating near the site opened a manhole under a service road and found human bones. The finding prompted the city to start searching in other underground locations, some of which were never searched for remains. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said today that the findings were tragic but understandable.
Mr. MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (Mayor, New York City): I think the reasons that these weren't discovered before was that these are not functioning manholes or service boxes. They were abandoned a long time ago, and when they were covered, I just assume people said oh, there's nothing in there and didn't go in.
VENUGOPAL: In the wake of 9/11, Bloomberg said recovery teams did the most exhaustive job they could given the circumstances. But this isn't the first time bone fragments have been chanced upon on the perimeter of Ground Zero, and 9/11 family members say the city has placed development at the site over their emotional needs. Rosaline Talon is the sister of Sean Patrick Talon, who died on September 11. She says the city owes her brother and the others who died a proper burial.
Ms. ROSALINE TALON: It would be horrible in another six years if we were to find remains or if archeologists were writing books saying that remains were left down at Ground Zero. That wouldn't be the right legacy for these wonderful people who died and for our city.
VENUGOPAL: Talon also wants the search to be turned over to the federal government, specifically to a military unit known as JPAC, for joint POW/MIA accounting command. The unit is tasked with finding the remains of soldiers abroad, but the mayor's reluctant to cede control of the search. He's also resisting calls for construction at Ground Zero to come to a halt. For Roger Young, a resident of New Jersey who works near the site, the needs of families justify a moratorium on construction.
Mr. ROGER YOUNG: It's not like they found one or two little bone fragments. They found some pretty substantial pieces of human bone. And I think if I had a person that died there, I would certainly want the closure to know that my, you know, my loved ones or whatever, they found whatever was left and I could get the closure I wanted.
VENUGOPAL: But for other New Yorkers like Louis Palmichio(ph), it's time to move on.
Mr. LOUIS PALMICHIO: There's so many bones down there that we're never going to find, and then even at the dumps, they want to go into the dumps and try to find them. It's - you know, we should let it rest and like everybody says, go on and just stay building.
VENUGOPAL: The city has searched five underground locations in the last week and come up with over 100 bones and bone fragments. Another 12 locations will be searched in the coming days.
For NPR News, I'm Arun Venugopal in New York.