Friday, February 25, 2011

The 9/11 Memorial Museum and the respect due the unidentified victims

Follow-up to the New York premier of the Geller/Spencer film, "The Ground Zero Mosque - Second Wave of the 911 Attacks"

After the screening of the movie, "The Ground Zero Mosque - Second Wave of the 911 Attacks" (see story here), family members and friends of those who perished spoke of their loved ones and the planned 9/11 Memorial Museum to be part of the Ground Zero site.

Like many things that get promised, those promises that were made concerning the treatment of the unidentified human remains of those murdered in this terrorist attack are currently not being kept. Below is the text from the home page of the website that describes the promises that were made and what seem to be promises that have since been broken.

Let the leaders of National September 11th Memorial and Museum (NS11MM) know how you feel.

Promises Not Kept

As many of you are aware, over 1,100 World Trade Center victims still remain missing. Many of the missing are among the unidentified human remains currently in the possession of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. Especially for those families without recoveries, the anticipated repository for the unidentified remains at Ground Zero is immensely important and sacred. They have no cemetery to visit.

The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC) publicly committed to return the unidentified remains to Ground Zero and to provide a separate accessible space to serve as a final resting place for the unidentified remains from the World Trade center site. In addition, they committed to a setting that was "separate and distinct from other memorial structures like a museum or visitor center." Many 9/11 family members took these commitments at face value, believing that a "memorial tomb of the unknowns" or the like would be created at Ground Zero. We never thought that our loved ones would be placed in a tourist destination—the National September 11th Memorial and Museum (NS11MM), a private non-profit organization—along with artifacts and displays, and pointed out to visitors.

As the NS11MM moves towards completion, details are just beginning to emerge about specific design elements of the facility. Last spring, several 9/11 family group leaders attended a lecture by Alice Greenwald, Director of the Memorial Museum. Among other design elements that we found deeply concerning and inappropriate, we were appalled to learn that the unidentified human remains will be inside the museum itself, and will be a "programmatic element" among the other museum artifacts and displays. This was a shocking revelation to us: we knew nothing about plans to relocate the human remains to such an extremely inaccessible location. They will be placed at the bottom of the museum (70 feet below ground), behind a "memorial wall" which will be pointed out to all tourists and visitors at the Museum as containing the remains of our loved ones!

In the first few years after 9/11, many families advocated that the unidentified human remains be returned to Ground Zero, to be interred in a type of "tomb of the unknowns." At that time, the families fully believed that this tomb, and indeed the memorial itself, would be above ground where it belonged. We all believed that the human remains would be interred in a respectful and accessible location at Ground Zero. We never thought our loved ones remains would be made part of a museum!

Fundamentally, the choice about the final disposition of our loved ones' human remains at Ground Zero should be solely in the hands of the family members. It is through proper, ethical consultation with all family members that this decision must be made.

Recently, several 9/11 family group leaders met with the NS11MM to discuss the fundamental need for consultation with all 2,749 families concerning the disposition of the human remains at Ground Zero. While the NSMM11 itself is still deciding whether or not to consult with all 2,749 families, we would like to know how you feel. We ask that you complete the form below and send it back to us, including any comments that you may have.

We also ask that all 9/11 family members contact the NS11MM leaders President Joseph Daniels and Director Alice Greenwald. We must demand that they conduct a thorough and transparent consultation with all 2,749 WTC families, offering them choices and requesting their input, as decisions are made regarding the human remains of their loved ones.

Thank you for your continued support.

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