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Thursday, 27 September, 2001, 05:15 GMT 06:15 UK
All hope lost for NY victims' relatives
The last wall of the World Trade Center
Thousands are missing but few bodies have been found
Families of more than 6,000 people still missing after the attack on the World Trade Center in New York have begun the painful process of applying for death certificates.

Some relatives have started turning up at a building on the Hudson River, where a special team of 75 lawyers - provided free of charge - has been put together to help them.

Mayor Rudolf Giuliani earlier warned that many bodies would never be recovered from the site.


Our life was normal before but now its all on me. I work part-time, but I can't work that much with a six-month old baby

Cindy Gomes, victim's wife
And he said that vestiges of the twin towers would be preserved for a possible memorial.

Emergency workers are trying to recover intact as much as possible of the remaining wall of the World Trade Center, the eerie metal outer frame that has come to symbolize the devastating attacks.

"We'll preserve as much of that wall as possible, because there are people who have expressed an interest in doing a memorial which will involve some of that wall," said Mr Giuliani.

Hiroshima, Berlin, London and America's Oklahoma City have all made monuments of debris left from bombing.

Special rule

Bereaved relatives normally have to wait three years for the death certificate of a loved one whose body has not been found.

Victims comfort each other
Victims' families are wondering how they will get by
But a special rule of exceptional circumstances is being used to bypass this.

Death certificates will enable relatives to start pursuing life insurance claims, give them access to bank accounts, benefits and compensation.

Some will still be wondering, though, how they are going to meet the bills now that their main source of financial support has gone.

"We need to pay rent and for baby formula and lots of credit card bills," said Cindy Gomes, 33, who lost her husband, a banker, in the attacks.

"Our life was normal before but now its all on me. I work part-time, but I can't work that much with a six-month old baby."

In the meantime, the Red Cross is paying out lump sums to cover funeral and initial living costs, which are expected to exceed $100m.

Acceptance

This is also the moment when people will have to finally accept that there is no hope their relatives will be found alive.

Hiroshima peace memorial
The memorial could take the form of Hiroshima's tribute to its holocaust
A police officer at the scene said some of the families had only got as far as the door and then left because they were too overcome with emotion.

"It made it too final trying to pick up a death certificate, it's too final and it's now telling me that there's no hope, there's definitely no hope, and until then we had hopes still," said Lynne Ruback, who lost her husband Paul, a fireman, in the attack.

Few bodies

Recovery workers have spoken of their frustration at failing to find people alive.

"It's very disappointing," one worker told the Associated Press news agency. "We thought there would be so many more."

Just 287 corpses have been pulled from the ruins, while 6,347 people are missing.

Nobody has been found alive since the night after the 11 September attack.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Richard Bilton
"They have stood as a dreadful reminder"
See also:

26 Sep 01 | Americas
Death certificates for missing
23 Sep 01 | Americas
Should the towers be rebuilt?
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