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Renewed search for 9/11 remains in New York

New York City officials are to begin a three-month search for the remains of more than 1,000 missing victims of the 9/11 attacks - however, some relatives of the deceased say it is too little, too late, reports the BBC's Matthew Price in New York.

World Trade Center site under construction (March 2010)
New methods are being used to identify remains, officials say

It is hard to believe that the best part of a decade on from the 11 September attacks, the debris from the World Trade Center site is still being examined.

That is partly a reflection of the enormity of the task, the huge amount of debris involved.

It is also, the relatives of some of those killed that day in 2001 contend, the result of years of delays that should have been avoided.

Among those relatives are Diane and Kurt Horning.

In their living room last week, Diane took out a plastic bag, and gently placed its contents on the table in front of her.

She picked up three keys, and turned them over in her hands. "World Trade Center" was engraved on one of them.

She pointed out a watch, battered, not an expensive one, missing its strap.

And then a credit card, bleached by age and the damage it suffered in the 9/11 attacks.

Some of the debris now lies in a landfill dump

These and more, Diane says, are evidence that the city of New York has failed to adequately sift through the rubble of the World Trade Center.

"We've been told that anything larger than a quarter-inch has been removed from that site," she says, referring to the place where much of the rubble recovered from Ground Zero has been placed.

"Yet when we go there we find personal items that are certainly larger than a quarter of an inch and which may have meant the world to people. Consequently we worry that there may have been remains of the same size or bigger that were ignored."

Fresh search

It is a dreadful thought that eight-and-a-half years on from the destruction of the World Trade Center towers, the partial remains of some of those killed may be lying unceremoniously in a landfill site.

Diane Horning, relative of a 9/11 victim
It is a good step but it comes a day late and a dollar short
Diane Horning, relative of 9/11 victim

That site is at the rather unfortunately named Fresh Kills area of Staten Island, just across the harbour from Manhattan. The word "kill" comes from an old Dutch word for a riverbed and is used in much of this part of the US.

After the 9/11 attacks, much of the debris was taken to Fresh Kills - the former rubbish dump for the city. It was - at the time - sifted through.

Now some 844 cubic yards of debris more recently discovered in the past few years at Ground Zero are going to be searched.

Scientists led by New York's chief medical examiner will spend three months sifting through the new material.

New York authorities turned down several requests for an interview, but said in a statement that the city "continues to work to identify as many victims of the 9/11 attacks as possible".

"New methodologies are being utilized for unidentified remains from the original recovery, and for remains recovered during the renewed search," it said.

'A garbage tip'

The remains of more than 1,000 people killed in the 11 September attacks in New York have still not been found.

Some were incinerated in the firestorm that swept through the upper floors of the Twin Towers. Others were pulverised as the buildings collapsed.

But families like the Hornings fear that the remains of others have simply been overlooked.

As the new search begins, they are wondering why part of the debris is only now being uncovered and looked at. How much more lies at the site of the attacks, they ask? How much has simply not been sifted out?

"It is a good step," Mrs Horning says, referring to the new search, "but it comes a day late and a dollar short.

"They are not re-sifting. They are taking material that they are just now taking from the World Trade Center site that we asked them to explore years ago."

Moreover, she says, people like her are still fighting to have the debris that they believe contains the unrecognisable remains of their loved ones relocated, away from the landfill, and to a more fitting place of burial and mourning.

"I certainly hope with the new materials that they will do a very careful search, in case there's something," she says.

With the other material that was excavated earlier, she adds, they want a mass burial.

"It's a garbage tip. It was on top of that... where they dumped my son and the people with whom he died. And we don't do that with animals."



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