Schumer, 9-11 Families Call For Expert Army Unit To Search For And Identify Bone And Other Human Remains At Ground Zero
Hundreds of Unidentified Bone and Other Body Parts Keep Families in Agony; City Med Examiner Doing All They Can, DOD Unit Would Make Search and ID Wider and Faster
Joint POW/MIA Accountability Command is an Elite Military Unit with Unprecedented Record of Finding Remains of Soldiers and Civilians Who Have Made the Ultimate Sacrifice
Senator to Ask Defense Department to Authorize Unit to Begin Fu
In the past months, as workers prepare to tear down the Deutsche Bank building that still stands at Ground Zero, tiny bits of human remains have been found on the roof and in air vents. Many of these pieces of bone are as small as one sixteenth of an inch. Identifying these fragments is painstaking work that is currently done by the medical examiners office who is still working to find everything as the demolition proceeds. In an effort to expedite the process and widen the search, today Senator Charles E. Schumer called on the Defense Department to deploy their Joint POW/MIA Accountability Command (JPAC) the elite military unit that searches for and identifies remains of missing soldiers and civilians, to conduct a full investigation in the area around Ground Zero.
Its been four and half years since September 11th and while thousands of remains have been found, no trace of over a third the people who died at the trade center has been identified, Schumer said. The families of these victims deserve the best search team there is, and that is our militarys Joint POW/MIA Accountability Command.
In September, construction workers from Bovis Lend Lease who were working on demolishing Deutsche Bank found scores of bone fragments. They found the remains as they were removing the roof ballast, stone by stone. The Medical Examiners office established a protocol for handling these remains to ensure everything is handled appropriately. Now forensic specialists work side by side with construction workers. On the site there are two Medical Examiners, an anthropologist and retired FDNY workers who are tasked with coordinating the work of finding remains. A forensic dentist was sent to the site from JPAC in the aftermath of 911 but they have since not been asked to send a full team.
Employing the worlds preeminent forensic experts, JPAC has located and identified American service personnel and civilians in battle zones and disaster areas around the world. They are charged with establishing a full accounting of the 88,000 Americans who never returned home from World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, and the first Gulf War. They have also helped with the search and identification in the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina as well as other disaster areas around the world. With their breadth of experience, JPAC is the organization best equipped to direct the search for remains in Lower Manhattan and to lead the painstaking efforts required in extracting DNA to identify them.
Last month, more fragments surfaced bringing the total of bone fragments found at the Deutsche Bank Building up to nearly 600. These discoveries lead many to believe that there is more to be found. Of the 2,749 people who died at the Trade Center, no traces of 1,151 have been identified.
The appearance of these new fragments, all of this time after the attacks leads me to believe that we have to cast a wider net, Schumer said.
Schumer today asked that the JPAC unit expand the search to buildings like Fitterman Hall and others on the perimeter but said he would leave the parameters of the search to them.
The Medical Examiners office is trying to identify the fragments by extracting the DNA and making matches with samples of DNA provided by the family.
Today Schumer sent a letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, requesting that he send a full team downtown to investigate the old Deutsche Bank Building and the perimeter of the site.
In the letter Schumer wrote, Of the 2,749 people who perished at the World Trade Center site on 9/11, no trace of 1,151 has been identified. In the New York area, this has meant that thousands of people have been unable to come to any closure on the deaths of their loved ones. Deploying JPAC to search for remains to provide assistance in identifying them would help countless families find the peace they so ardently seek, and so richly deserve.
The text of the letter follows:
Dear Secretary Rumsfeld,
The recent discovery of many hundreds of bone fragments on the roof of the former Deutsche Bank Headquarters, which suffered extensive damage when the World Trade Center's South Tower partially collapsed on it on 911, is compelling indication that the search for those lost at the World Trade Center on 9/11 is not yet complete. This development also indicates that despite the considerable, sincere, and often excellent efforts of those involved in this endeavor to this point more resources and expertise are needed to complete this essential task.
That is why I now ask you to deploy personnel from the worldrenowned Joint POW/MIA Accountability Command (JPAC) to New York City to assist with the ongoing recovery efforts at the Deutsche Bank Building. I also ask that this elite unit launch their own, fullscale search effort to recover human remains in the area around Ground Zero. Simply put, there is no better outfit in the world to assist in the daunting and complex task of the recovery of human remains at Ground Zero, than the JPAC.
Employing the worlds preeminent forensic experts, JPAC has located and identified American service personnel and civilians in battle zones and disaster areas around the world some decades after they have perished. With their breadth of experience, JPAC is the organization best equipped to direct the search for remains in Lower Manhattan and to lead the painstaking efforts required in extracting DNA to identify them.
Many of the nearly 600 bone fragments found at the Deutsche Bank building are as small as 1/16 of an inch and have been exposed to outdoor elements for some time. Construction crews, in concert with the New York City Medical Examiners office and the New York City Fire Department, have done a fine job locating these remains, and, when possible, identifying them. As the demolition of the Deutsche Bank will proceed for some time to come, I believe that workers currently at the site would benefit greatly from JPACs assistance.
The finding of bone fragments at this one building, nearly 5 years after 9/11, also leads me to believe that we must cast a wider net in searching for additional remains. While I would leave it to the JPAC experts to determine the scope of a search, it stands to reason that many smaller fragments are dispersed near Ground Zero.
Of the 2,749 people who perished at the World Trade Center site on 9/11, no trace of 1,151 has been identified. In the New York area, this has meant that thousands of people have been unable to come to any closure on the deaths of their loved ones. Deploying JPAC to search for remains to provide assistance in identifying them would help countless families find the peace they so ardently seek, and so richly deserve.
I look forward to working with you to ensure JPAC has the resources necessary to add this recovery work to its current assignments without detracting from ongoing work.
Again, thank you for your consideration of this matter and please let me know if I can be of assistance to coordinate this effort with state and local authorities.
Charles E. Schumer U.S. Senator