Deadly Remains … And What To Do With Them

by Diane Dimond on January 10, 2009

The Day The World Changed

The Day The World Changed

Newsweek Magazine has put a criminal justice conundrum in my head.

In a piece called, “Remains of the Day” Correspondent Eve Conant writes in detail about how forensic scientists in New York, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia painstakingly went about identifying what was left of the human beings caught up in the worst crime in modern American times – The attacks of September 11th, 2001.

Now, wait. Before you stop reading, thinking this is just another tearjerker tale that you’ve read about before – it isn’t.

It’s all about the science of getting justice.

In forensic labs in the three cities where the planes went down there was a massive effort to collect human fragments so families could have something to grieve over. In Pennsylvania and near the Pentagon site in Washington, D.C. the identification went faster. The remains were badly damaged but enough was left to make positive matches for all those lost souls. Newsweek says the Somerset County, Pennsylvania coroner now reveals he even found definitive DNA proof in a single silver capped tooth he happened to spot after catching a sun-glint from a hemlock tree 20 feet above where the plane crashed.

Smoldering 9-11 Remains in Pennsylvania

Smoldering 9-11 Remains in Pennsylvania

The depressing task of identification was much more difficult in New York. There were many more victims and they were oftentimes nearly disintegrated under the massive weight of the long burning twin towers. But the scientists soldiered on. Some tiny bone fragments were found months and years later on rooftops of nearby buildings and were matched to the missing.

All of the recovered DNA has now been matched to people who lost their lives that awful day because their families provided hair, nail clippings or other DNA control samples for comparison. Yet, 87 months later the families of 1,126 of the 2,751 victims from the World Trade Center and 5 from the Pentagon have no resolution. There is simply nothing left of their loved ones to test.

And the conundrum: These brilliant scientists, working with local evidence, and with some brought in by the FBI, have also now identified what’s left of the 13 terrorists.

1,131 American families get no answer while the terrorist’s families know for certain.

The Penagon Attack on 9-11-01

The Penagon Attack on 9-11-01

I have to admit I never gave a thought to what might have been left of those dreadful men, who cared about them?! But it turns out many of the victim’s families cared. From the beginning they implored authorities to make sure the remains of their loved ones were nowhere near those of the 13 madmen who caused the calamity. The scientists set about to see if that could be done.

Working from discarded cigarette butts and used tissue tossed into hotel room wastebaskets, hairbrushes, clothing, anything known to have been touched by the monsters, these lab wizards were ultimately successful in separating out the terrorist’s remains.

None of their family has come forward to claim them. In fact, which of the 13 is which is unknown as aren’t any control samples to use. The few pounds of collected human remnants are referred to as Terrorist A, B, C, D and so on. They are individually stored in an undisclosed government controlled location.

So, as a human rights based society what do we do with them? Do we give them a proper burial? Will a Muslim cleric anywhere in America step forward to perform such a ceremony? Do we leave them in isolation for eternity in our government vault? Do we want them on American soil forever?

One New York man who lost his younger brother when the South Tower collapsed says he suggests “stomping on them.” New York’s Governor suggests “finish burning them.”

Our justice system forces us to remember none of the 13 was convicted of anything in a court of law, yet they surely would have been had they survived. They likely would have faced the death penalty. And we routinely make sure those we execute are provided with burial or cremation.

But what about the remains of these 13 foreign born men who left a scar on history that will long be remembered?

I’d honestly like to hear reader’s suggestions. Americans have always come up with creative and legendary solutions to problems. This is something the terrorists hated about us. Our free will and determination to chart our own course – not the course set out by a group of so-called “religious” men – is what they feared most. They couldn’t understand the concept of freedom, individuality and independent problem solving and so they tried to wipe us, the infidels, off the face of the earth.

Their actions almost seem tiny now because we survived. But so did parts of them – and now – what do we do with what’s left?


{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

Anna Mest January 10, 2009 at 5:34 am

This is extremely thought provoking. I read your article in the Albuquerque newspaper. You were right up to a point. We werent attacked becouse of our freedom "from" religion but becouse of our freedom "for" religion. Our attackers just happen to hate christianity. Our attackers, according to thier own personal statements about the attack, are mandated according to thier own personal religion to attack and destroy all christians. Americans are primarily christians or Jewish.

Personally I think we should finish burning the what is left and then use it in the cement or other form of construction material to rebuild where the twins towers had been. Our neighbors may try to destroy us but they will only succeed in being a tool to a better our future. We must learn from our past mistakes and work to avoid repeating our mistakes. I wish our government were more capable of doing this.


DianeDimond January 10, 2009 at 7:15 am

Phyllis G writes:
"I would try them in absentia. I know they would be convicted. Then they need to be placed in a box and buried in a federal prison yard where the convicts can spit or urinate on them as they see fit. This should be akin to putting them into solitary confinement and no relative should be able to visit them."


DianeDimond January 11, 2009 at 6:55 am

Phyllis – Isn't it interesting that none of the terrorists families have come forward to claim what's left of their beloved martyrs? I'm given to believe the 9-11 terrorists are held up as heroes among their families. So, why, then don't they want what's left of them? I guess we'll never know. ~ DD


Lyn January 10, 2009 at 11:23 am

Gosh, why did this all happen in the first place? Why did it come to this? What was the origin of all this?


DianeDimond January 10, 2009 at 8:04 am

Albuquerque Journal Reader Larry G. writes:
“Take the remains of the terrorists that flew the aircraft and sew them up in a fatty, rancid pig skin. Encase the pig skin and remains in concrete and take, via submarine, to the Marians trench and dump it in. Destroy all records as to where it was dumped.
Oh, yeah, let the news media cover the operation so the terrorist Muslim world can see what we think of them.


David January 24, 2009 at 11:49 pm

Dealing with the terrorist remains presents a powerful opportunity. I would like to see the Islamic community step up to properly deal with the remains, AND to publicly and unconditionally condemn the terrorist actions as part of the ceremony. I would also like to see the Christian community support the ceremony by participating and urging forgiveness. After all, it is up to God to deal with the souls of the terrorists, but it is a requirement of Christianity that we let go of the hatred.

Islam is presented as a religion of peace.
Christianity is presented as a religion of forgiveness
Americans are presented as people who dwell on the past only enough to create a better future

A public ceremony to deal with the remains of the terrorist offers the opportunity to reinforce all of these qualities simultaneously.


DianeDimond January 11, 2009 at 1:50 am

Albuquerque Journal Reader Darren W. writes:
" I recommend that we dump the terrorist's remains down the sewer. Wait, that wouldn't be fair to the rats—now would it?"


DianeDimond January 11, 2009 at 1:51 am

Margret C. writes:
"In regard to remains of 9-11 terrorists, same should be placed in a large container which is then filled with pig grease and interred in the ground which constitutes a proper burial for killers."


DianeDimond January 11, 2009 at 6:51 am

Say – this is now the second reference to using parts of a pig to dispose of the terrorists remains. I'm assuming that has something to do with the Muslim tradition of avoiding pork products? ~ DD


Larry g January 15, 2009 at 11:30 pm

yes—the pig is the symbol of the devil in the Moslem religion. Having the pig around you–eating it's flesh, being buried in a pig skin is the uitimate insult to a Moslem. The Russians did the same thing to some of their terrorists a few years ago. I understand that they can't get their 76 virgins or whatever. Time to use physicoligical warfare against these low life skum. Please forgive the spelling.


Jeff Liddell January 11, 2009 at 2:04 am

Diane, I love most of your columns, but frankly, I do not understand why the disposal of the remains of these 13 people would be considered relevant any longer. I certainly do not mean to undermine your column, perhaps there is more to the story than I am seeing. Mixed with a little beef broth my shepherd mastiff mix would know what to do with those bones. If they were not needed for any forensic testing, and there was no way to identify them, they should have been treated like any unknown or indigent prisoners that die behind bars, a simple box for all of the bones and placed in a "potters field". As suggested by Larry G, no media coverage or hype would be necessary, they do not need to be remembered and I think those terrorists already know how we feel about them. As Mark Twain once said, "I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it".


Lyn January 11, 2009 at 3:59 am

I think they should be flown back to where they came from and dropped from the air – onto their precious land!


DianeDimond January 11, 2009 at 6:49 am

JWM writes:
"…Since I believe the attacks were at least as much major-league act of mass murder as traditional act of war, I believe the remains should be stuck into some cheap biodegradable containers and tossed into a "potter's field" grave marked with a placard stating who they were and what they did. This site should be guarded against vandalism.

This I believe strikes the right balance between what we think of them and their work, and our supposed desire to operate at a higher moral level than that of our enemies.

You do good work. Thank you."


Janet Turner January 11, 2009 at 9:44 am

okay….I will probably go against everything here but I think the remains should br sent back to their home country. We don't want or need them here. To keep them here would remind us of the hatred….not that we need it….and the graves would probably be ransacked. Even though no one stepped up to claim the remains….fact is they still belong to someone, a son, a father. We should not stoop to the same level as they did.


Michael Schoen January 12, 2009 at 5:21 am

This is a very thought provoking column. I also never thought about what would become of the terrorists remains. Thanks for always opening my mind.


Stacy Dittrich January 12, 2009 at 6:02 am

Well, Di, since I'm afraid of heights "rising above" will be a little difficult. I'm all about flushing them down the sewer though…hope you're feeling better!


DianeDimond January 12, 2009 at 7:51 am

Huffington Post Reader BenjaminBlue writes:

"The terrorists' remains should be preserved for scientific research.

At some point in the future, as advances continue, scientists may be able to identify useful relationships between the terrorists' traits, tendencies that could be predictors.

Maybe the terrorists shared some chemical imbalance, for instance, that gave them a propensity for acting as they did. Maybe scientists can develop drugs to combat such impulses in others with similar imbalances.

There is something good in even the worst among us, and it could be that an understanding of the terrorists' molecular structures could contribute to combating dysfunctional coping methods in others."


DianeDimond January 12, 2009 at 8:13 am

Web Site Reader Al P writes:

"Why not just have our next space shot drop them off in space? If we return them to the country of their origin they will be considered martyrs. If we dispose of them here some idiots will want to make a shrine out of it."


Patti P. January 12, 2009 at 8:48 am

I must agree, but with today's technology, "some idiots" would likely make a killing on Ebay.


Gordon_Hamel January 12, 2009 at 9:09 am

DD – I would respectfully submit that to even acknowledge the existence of a scientifically identified bag of bone dust lends credibility to the terrorist community and all of their rantings. Having said that, If all we want is some type of gratuitous revenge or satisfaction (I do), then we must identify the ultimate insult and use it as the basis for disposal. Keep in mind, terrorists hate women, crave recognition, can't stand disrespect directed at them, and consider throwing shoes the ultimate insult. Therefore, I suggest that using some of the remains we could develop a genetically engineered female pig (hate women). After slaughtering, the pigskin could be used by the NFL to manufacture footballs. Then, every Sunday millions of Americans could watch as placekickers in every game all around the nation, using American made shoes, kick the crap out of our terrorist footballs. The ultimate in disrespect. If using America's number one pass time is not your cup of tea, perhaps we could move to America's number two favorite pass time. That would involve having our scientists use the terrorist remains to develop a new brand of toilet tissue.


DianeDimond January 12, 2009 at 12:06 pm

Web Site Reader Lyn N. writes:
"I think they should be flown back to where they came from and dropped from the air – onto their precious land!"


DianeDimond January 12, 2009 at 1:31 am

Lyn and Janet –
Actually, I agree with both of you! I think we are a more civilized and advanced people – and since we know WHO the hijackers were and where they came from (most from Saudi Arabia) I say we send the remains back to their home countries. Let THEM and the Good Lord sort it out from there.


Ian D. Christmas January 12, 2009 at 12:36 pm

I think that in order for us to thwart terrorism and extremist views, we as a country need to uphold higher standards towards others. The way to fight tyranny isn't tyranny, but with compassion and forgiveness. We need to remember the tragedy, but move beyond this one terrible act and show mercy and compassion towards those who committed this.

I think that they should have a Muslim funeral and be buried with a marker and placard at the 9/11 memorial center in New York, outside the Pentagon, and in the Field in Pennsylvania. The placard with an everlasting flame should not have anything derogatory towards them or their religion. Something like:
"Here lie the remains of those who committed one of the greatest acts of terrorism against the United States of America. Here their remains are placed with compassion and respect towards their own religious beliefs. We must remember not just those who died from their terrorist act, but try to understand the reasons behind those who commit atrocities. With compassion towards those who would do us harm in the hope that through compassion and understanding humanity can come together in peace."

We need to be better people. we need to trust people again. we need to stop being fearful. Forgiveness Compassion, and Courage should be our creed through this troubled time. We cannot adopt aggressive practices or thinking terrorists are inhuman. We are all humans and should place humanity at the forefront of our policies


Erik Sheppard January 13, 2009 at 4:13 am

I have to vote for returning them to their homes. It just seems to be the right thing to do. Anyone who has seen interviews with the Dahmer's or the families of most other people who have committed terrible acts know the pain they feel. Perhaps some of the hijacker's families feel that same sense of anguish. Why should they be punished? If, on the other hand the remains would be welcomed back as the bodies of heroes or martyrs, then we will have again done the right thing as they would surely have to be even a little grateful. It would at least be a show of respect for their dead.

It might have been asking a lot for us to go out of our way to separate and identify those particular remains for their families but the work has already been done. Send them home to be taken care of according to their wishes and traditions. Wouldn't that be the "Christian" thing to do?


DianeDimond January 13, 2009 at 4:51 am

Erik – What a thoughtful post. I appreciate you taking the time to write in. I feel as you do…that we are a better people than the terrorists, that we shine concentrating on doing the humane thing and not on vengeance.
And, BTW – Congrats for being one of the few on the site with a Gravatar~! Lovely.


DianeDimond January 13, 2009 at 4:52 am

Erik – What a thoughtful post. I appreciate you taking the time to write in. I feel as you do…that we are a better people than the terrorists, that we shine concentrating on doing the humane thing and not on vengeance.
And, BTW – Congrats for being one of the few on the site with a Gravatar~! Lovely.
Come back often!


Audrie Clifford January 13, 2009 at 10:29 am

As a nation, we are a kind and loving people. Hating the terrorists and showing disrespect to their remains doesn't hurt them at all. But it does hurt us, because it reduces us from what we might be. However, we don't want to store those remains, as though we've taken them in to be a part of our national identity. Lets cremate whatever there is, and take those ashes to be dumped at sea — Far from our shores, but also far from any others. Then let's remember our own and let these men become lost in history.


Box1Car January 13, 2009 at 11:26 am

None of these posts grasps the enormity of historical big picture of what we are faced with-
NO ONE realizes the 9/11terrorist act is simply part of our Traditional Final Solution- To Wit:

Every 3 generations when 4th arrives, its the straw that breaks the economy's back for to
support BOTH the aged and newborn, neither of whom are working, the balance of Supply
and Demand is tipped in favor of economic meltdown and our Traditional Final Solution is
always an increase in the Death Rate. Modern History began in 1796 with the major
discovery of 2 public health issues: Proof of Vitamin Deficiency and CowPox Innocultions,
thus beginning a modern era of exploding population growth, expanding into New World.

Since then every 3 generations (every 3 x 22.2yrs = 66.6) there have been major global
socio-economic crises, the years being 1860s, 1930s and NOW. There is scientific data
that expounds on this premise beginning with The Solar Mortality Theory that indicates
human race is sun-synchronized into 1 generation = 1 solar cycle of 22.2yrs. Read details
in 2006 blog ""- Predicted 2nd Depression to start 2007.5

Decrease in Birth Rates makes more sense, but have we ever used COMMON SENSE?
Gays are not a problem. They are NOT the ones having all the kids to destroy our planet
are they? Means our more's are Topsy Turvey, they were intended for a FLAT EARTH.
Promotors of large multi-birth families on a finite thin shell of a world havn't a CLUE.
they are supporting a policy that ensures high Death Rate as our Final Solution. If you're
NOT for Birth Control then you must be FOR Control by Death. Can't have it both ways!
It took organized religion 3 centuries to realize Galileo was right, the Earth does move.
We ain't got 3 centuries to come to realization the Earth ain't Flat

My brother said before he died in 2000, "In the end, when they come for your guns, after
economy collapses, only then will you begin to realize that America was a BIG LIE"
I thot he was all wrong, but now I'm beginning to think, maybe he knew something
was coming that none of us realized, that we are indeed ruining the economy & planet.
Sorry about that- roger carmichael, solar scientist


DianeDimond January 13, 2009 at 11:37 am

IntenseDebate Notification <DIV dir=ltr align=left>approve</DIV> <DIV dir=ltr align=left></DIV>


DianeDimond January 13, 2009 at 11:41 am

Ummmmmm. I'm not really sure that this directly relates to the column I wrote here about the terrorists remains. But it somehow seems too detailed to NOT post.
Anyone else have any thoughts on Box1Car's comments? ~ DD


jeff liddell January 14, 2009 at 1:51 am

Boxcar's remarks have nothing to do with your column, obviously he was looking for an outlet to rant and express his very inaccurate and inane thoughts. Here are some facts that dispute his. The U.S. population is growing by about 2.5 million people each year. Of that, immigration contributes over one million people to the U.S. population annually. The current population of the US is approx. 305,610,091, the current death rate is approx. 825.9 deaths per 100,000, which equates to 2,524,033
deaths annually and that looks like zero population growth to this writer. I located these figures from the Census Bureau. Perhaps Boxcar should be posting at a sci-fi website.


box1car January 17, 2009 at 8:21 pm

Mr. Liddell's never heard of the Post-War Baby Boom in US? (FACT of Life)
CURRENT population growth rate is NOT the problem- Its the excess of the
first generation after WWII that set us up to fail as post war generation retires.
Like most Americans, Jeff thinks the world revolves around only US census
Google "Human Population Growth" to get the natural 1.2% GLOBAL population growth that leads to high Death Rates for ALL of us as our traditional Final Solution. Sorry but its the WORLD that does NOT have Zero Growth Rates.
Curb GLOBAL birth rates maybe 9/11's.might subside since NOT needed.
That's the point I was trying to make. To belittle abother's viewpoint with facts
that are irrelevant is misleading. Zero Population Growth in US has no bearing
on Fact the huge swell in a 1st generation has impacted global economy.

As for relevance, how many kids did the Muslim hijackiers have? Suggest we
intere REMAINS in a memorial entitled "Birth Control or Death Control"
On a thin finite shell of a world we are faced with a choice- You are either
FOR Birth Control or you are FOR Control by Death, can't have it both ways
When Titanic sank, no one in lifeboats went back for survivors, guess why?
It'd swamp the boats, so everyone voted for Control of Situation by Death.
So sorry about that FACT OF LIFE


Lyn January 15, 2009 at 12:44 pm

Blimey… head is spinning trying to figure all that lot out!! I'm not really one for "figures" so forgive me for being so "lapse" in understanding Box 1 Car's post. Whew! It;s far too scientific for the likes of me to understand. When I got to paragraph 3 my head started to hurt with trying to think too hard. Interesting though….


box1car January 19, 2009 at 3:52 am

Thks to both Lyn and Jeff too, for your peer review-
The JIST of what I've learned is the human race is
Sun-Synchronized to the 22.2 year Solar Cycle so
that every 3 solar cycles we go thru a major global
socio-economic upheaval such as occuring NOW
All I'm saying is 9/11 was part of that upheaval that
is ongoing on a worldwide basis and our only viable
solution is Birth Control or else we will repeat history
again & again by invoking increases in DeathRates.
Not critical of other's viewpoint, just an observation.


DianeDimond January 19, 2009 at 1:31 pm

Box1car , Not to shut you down but I think we GOT your feelings about birth control. I&#039;d like it if you could stick to the topic at hand. Thanks! ~ DD


Box1Car January 25, 2009 at 2:59 am

"Problems" can be defined as "any undesireable result "
The problem with terrorist remains is
we still have them on our hands-
The solution is to devise a way
to get them out of our hands- here's 1 idea:
Grind remains into a fine powder & mix into
a slurry for toilet paper pulp.Take the rolls of
toilet paper and now we have a new question-
What do we do with the rolls of toilet paper?
Should we give them back to Saudi Arabia
or just let the prisoners at Guantanomo Bay
make use of them? Perhaps survivors of 9/11
victims might want to take them off our hands
to finish job literally and have some closure.

DianeDimond January 13, 2009 at 12:07 pm

Albuquerque Journal Reader PrayPro writes:

"Because the (poll) options were limited, I voted for "cremation." What I'd like to see is our guy at the UN take the containers of ashes to the next UN general assembly and ceremoniously set them on the tables where sits the representatives from the individual terrorists' home countries. Saudi Arabia, of course, would get most of them.
Sic 'em, Tigress!


DianeDimond January 13, 2009 at 12:31 pm

Web Site Reader Jane S. writes:

"I say we cremate them and mark very plain urns that contain their ashes, then display them in the Smithsonian, preserving them as history – we can’t forget the holocaust or the events of 911 either – we can’t “rise above the hate and give them a proper burial” as that would give them the martyrdom they sought."


E. G. January 16, 2009 at 10:33 am

I think thier final destination should be their homeland, but only after giving them to an International Court that can examinate them and establish independently the role of each one of them in the terrorist attacks. Conspiracy theories affirm that it's quite strange that, while half of the victims cannot be identified, the names and pictures of the terrorists were known a few hours after the attacks.


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