“No Day Shall Erase You from the Memory of Time”  The Ceremonial Transfer of 9/11 Remains


At a space between the two Twin Tower footprints at bedrock designed to professional specifications for access, security and environmental controls. The monument artifacts present intimate stories of loss, compassion, and are central to telling the stories of the attacks and the aftermath.

If I had the opportunity to visit the massive World Trade Center Memorial and Museum with another person, I would jump at the chance. However, navigating New York City and touring such an awe-inspiring site is not a solo event, but is meant to be shared.

Survivors of this horrific occurrence in 2001 must have felt the same, not to be experienced alone. A milestone occurred just a year ago with a minimum of fanfare nationally. Some thought of it as a rite of passage, while others wore black gags over their mouths to protest a perceived lack of communication with victims’ families.   Moving the remains were turning into a major tourist attraction, they said.

Nearly one year ago a convoy of first responders including the New York City Police Department, the Fire Department and the Port Authority Police Emergency Services Unit arrived at the 9/11 Memorial in possession of three coffin size metal military transfer cases, the contents, 7,930 remains.  These remains, some identified and some not, were part of the ceremonial transfer.

The processional consisted of the convoy stopping at groups of saluting first responders and then proceeding to an area of white oak trees on the Memorial Plaza with a final resting place in a repository which is part of the National September 11th Memorial Museum.  However, the repository itself is separated from the Museum by a wall.

Some families feared disrespect from tour guides creating a carnival-like atmosphere.  They imagined others not being able to resist stating, “Behind that wall lies the remains of 9-11 victims” 1,115 unidentified remains versus 2753 reported missing persons.  It was personal preference whether individual families chose to claim remains, if identified, or seek the repository as a final resting place. The official response in 2014 from Joseph C. Daniels, the Chief Executive for the Memorial and Museum provided assurances to the public that:

  1. There was never a plan for human remains to be part of the exhibit
  2. One exception included that the remains returned to the site are in no way accessible to the public
  3. 9/11 families will have an adjacent area close to the remains, a Reflection Room, but not part of the museum where tourists gather

According to information on the 9/11 Memorial Website, the repository provides a dignified and reverential setting for the remains to repose, temporarily or in perpetuity, as identifications continue to be made. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner is committed to the ongoing work to identify the remains, but no DNA testing will be done on site at the repository.

The Refection Room: Family members should call ahead to ensure adequate private time by reserving in advance at the OCME. Hot Line Number – 212-447-7884.

There can be no better ending than to share this moving video from voiceofseptember11.org;


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