- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 10, 2004

NEW YORK — The remains of hundreds of victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks are to be permanently buried in the world’s largest garbage dump, to the consternation of their grieving families.

Relatives were assured that the ashes resulting from the fireball would be returned to the World Trade Center. Then they would form part of a planned memorial after being sorted from the half-million tons of debris from the Twin Towers that was taken to the Fresh Kills landfill site on Staten Island.

The dump had been used to dispose of New York City’s garbage for more than 100 years before it was closed six months before the terrorist attacks. Rubble from the World Trade Center covered 48 acres.

City authorities have since balked at the estimated $450 million cost of moving the ashes again and have promised to create a 2,200-acre park on top of the dump — whose rotting contents smell of methane gas — and erect a memorial instead.

Relatives of 1,169 victims have yet to receive any remains of their loved ones, and many are outraged at the authorities’ decision.

“We were promised the remains — any and all remains of the victims — and now we discover that my lost son is to spend eternity in a rubbish dump,” said Diane Horning, whose son Matthew, 24, died in the North Tower, where he worked for the insurance company Marsh and McLennan. “This is morally reprehensible and emotionally unacceptable, and we are going to fight it all the way.”

Matthew Horning made two mobile phone calls to his family after the first jet struck the World Trade Center. He asked his father to tell his fiancee, Maura, that he loved her. His last word, sent on a pager message, was: “Scared.”

His mother, who believes that the cost of moving the ashes has been exaggerated tenfold, said: “They have already started bulldozing junk and debris on top of our loved ones and they have left our son in the garbage. They promised that this would never happen, and they are trying to cover up their mistake, literally and figuratively.”

Mrs. Horning and her husband, Kurt, a retired teacher, have formed the World Trade Center Families for Proper Burial, a group campaigning for a formal cemetery with markers commemorating each of the 2,749 known victims. A petition on the group’s Web site, www.wtcfamiliesforproperburial.com, has more than 18,000 signatures.

Last week the families of victims were invited to a planning meeting on Staten Island, but officials offered no concessions.

According to city proposals, the mound of debris will be shaped into two embankments, each as long as the 110-story Twin Towers were high. Visitors will be able to walk in between the embankments, looking toward the World Trade Center site across the harbor.

Officials say that a cemetery for the ashes would cost at least $45 million and that a memorial will be a focal point of the new World Trade Center.

However, Mrs. Horning is enraged by suggestions that it will be a “symbolic” cemetery. “Only if my son is ‘symbolically’ dead,” she says. “But if he’s really dead then I really want him buried.”

New York Gov. George E. Pataki, a Republican, is said to be sympathetic to the relatives, and the New Jersey Legislature has passed legislation ordering the Port Authority, which owned the World Trade Center, to move the dust and ash. Yet it is toothless unless the New York Legislature passes the same law.

The office of New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg pointed out that the coroner’s office was still trying to identify 10,260 fragments of remains gathered at Fresh Kills. Those that remained unidentified would be interred in the official memorial at the Twin Towers site.

The mayor said: “After months of evaluating the complex concerns raised by members of the Families for Proper Burial, we have concluded that we will proceed with plans for a respectful memorial at the recovery site.”

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