41 percent of 9/11 families still have no remains
They are the staggering numbers that, almost 10 years later, remain as incomprensible as 9/11 itself.
The families of 1,123 people who died at the World Trade Center – that’s 41 percent of the 2,752 people who perished there – have never received so much as a shred of DNA from their lost loved ones.
Those numbers explain why so many families see the WTC site as a grave, and why the memorial is such a pain-soaked symbol.
Among their ranks is Monica Iken Murphy, who never received the remains of her husband, Michael Iken.
Grieving “is still Twilight Zone for me,” said Iken Murphy, a board member of the National Sept. 11 Memorial. She founded a group called September’s Mission to make sure the “hallowed ground” she perceived as a mass grave would be turned into a memorial.
“I feel like he’s there,” Iken Murphy said.
She said it will be wonderful to have a place finally to honor her deceased husband, who was a bond trader at Euro Brokers in the South Tower. “He finally has a home. It’s a place for me to go,” said Iken Murphy, who has since remarried and has two daughters.
A death lacking physical evidence “is an abstraction,” explained Ken Druck, founder of the Jenna Druck Center, a San Diego bereavement institute.
“The reason we have services and funerals and open caskets is to give families an opportunity to choose how to transition from having a hands on, pick-up-the-phone relationship with a loved one to a spiritual relationship.”
Those without evidence to bury, cremate or otherwise ceremonially honor “never got that choice,” Druck said.
The NYC Office of Chief Medical Examiner continues to work on new identifications of remains, a spokeswoman said.
Those remains eventually will be moved to the memorial, - a site that is not equally compelling to all families.
Edward Henry, a retired FDNY battalion chief from Bensonhurst, still chafes at the thought that WTC rubble was whisked away to the Staten Island landfill before it was sifted for remnants of the dead.
“Mistakes were made,” that resulted in additional pain for grieving families, said Henry, whose son, FDNY Firefighter Joseph Patrick Henry perished without a trace, as did six other members of FDNY Ladder Company 21. “Other people got something and you got nothing,” Henry said.
Some families see more significance in the landfill, where remains were discovered, and would have preferred a memorial in Staten Island, said Bill Doyle, who is still waiting for DNA of his son, Joey Doyle, a bond supervisor for Cantor Fitzgerald in the North Tower, to be identified.
“I bought a burial plot for him, but there’s nothing in it,” said Doyle, of Lady Lake, Fla.
Not having physical evidence makes it easier for some survivors to prolong their denial of death, observed Doyle, who heads the Coalition of 9/11 Families.
“They refuse to believe it,” said Doyle. “They’re still hopeful he’ll be found – or that she just wandered off.”
This article has been updated to reflect the following correction: It originally referred to Ken Druck as psychologist, which he has not been for several years.