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R.I.P. Now take them to the basement

A decade after 9/11, some 6,000 human remains, representing more than 1,100 World Trade Center victims, are stored at the New York City medical examiner’s office. Despite all efforts, despite advanced DNA testing, they are still unidentified.
Of this I was aware. But what I did not know, until I learned of a protest last Saturday evening outside that office on E. 30th St. in Manhattan, was what the City of New York now planned to do with the remnants of all those lost human beings.
They are to be moved to the “basement” of the 9/11 Memorial Museum at Ground Zero. In order to pay your respects, you will also have to pay the $20 museum admission fee.
According to a story published Aug. 27 in New York Magazine, there would be “three distinct levels of access: for the public, for the families, and for the scientists who will presumably keep up the ID work.” Does this mean the families at least will be permitted to visit for free? Even so, their visits would likely be limited to the museum’s operating hours.
This decision on the eternal resting place was made in 2009, but I shamefacedly admit I had not heard of it. However, I am not alone. Some family members of victims have filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit to force the city to release contact information for all the WTC next-of-kin — this, in order to alert them to the planned move.
Some of those at the protest were asking that the remains be placed above ground in perhaps a “Tomb of the Unknowns.” A sacred place. A place under the open sky, and open to any mourner at virtually any time.
No matter how classy a memorial is placed inside the museum,  it will still be offensive.
Human beings, even unidentified ones, even just the fragile fragments of them, should not be part of some exhibit. This reminds me of the uneasy feeling I got when I first saw actual mummies at the Metropolitan. Human beings do not belong in  glass cases. They do not belong in public museums.
Keep the 9/11 remains at the ME’s office until all DNA-identification hope is gone.
And then give them a dignified resting place on holy ground.
— Karen Zautyk

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