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Remains of September 11 victims to be moved

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New York -

The unidentified remains of victims of the September 11, 2001, attacks in New York will be taken on Saturday to ground zero, but the move has sparked strong opposition from some families.

The attacks - in which hijacked jetliners smashed into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon in Washington, and a field in Pennsylvania - killed 2 753 people at the World Trade Center, or Twin Towers, alone.

But only 1 115 of the bodies were ever identified, according to figures from the New York medical examiners' office.

The unidentified remains will be moved from there to a specially built repository under the National September 11 Memorial & Museum on May 10, the mayor's office said in a letter to victims' families.

“This transfer will be conducted in a dignified and respectful manner, while also ensuring the protection and security of the remains during the move,” the letter said.

Nearly 8 000 pieces of human remains - which authorities have been unable to match with DNA provided by families - will be moved in a “solemn, sombre, respectful procession” of vehicles from the police, fire department, and the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, The New York Times reported.

There will be no religious ceremony or service, nor will the event be attended by city officials, the newspaper added.

According to Susan Dahill, communications director for the “Voices of September 11th”, the event will only be open to family members of the victims “because of the space limitation”.

The repository will be located 20m underground in a basement of the September 11 museum and will not be open to the public.

But the museum itself will be open to the public from May 21.

That is not a fitting resting place for the remains of loved ones, some family members said.

“Human remains should not be a marketing tool for a $24 admission to that museum, it is a disgrace, it's a sacrilege,” said Sally Regenhard, vice chair of a group called 9/11 Parents and Families of Firefighters and WTC Victims.

She complained that the families were not consulted about the move.

In contrast, Dahill said her group, which works with 800 families of victims of the attacks, does not have an official position on the re-locating of the unidentified remains because “there are so many different people and so many different views”.

As part of efforts to respect their feelings, authorities have established a five-day tribute period starting May 15 specifically for family members, workers at the former World Trade Center, rescue workers from the attack, and survivors.

During that time, “family members will have the opportunity to visit the Reflection Room at the Repository, a private space accessible only to the families of 9/11 victims”, the mayor's note said.

The re-built World Trade Center includes five new skyscrapers, the memorial, the museum, a metro stop, 50 000 square metres of retail space, and a performing arts centre. - Sapa-AFP


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