Video: No memorial for 9/11 WTC victims?

By Keith Olbermann Anchor, 'Countdown'
updated 10/25/2006 11:06:23 AM ET 2006-10-25T15:06:23

On Tuesday, "Countdown" host Keith Olbermann discusses the recent discoveries of more human remains found at Ground Zero.

You can read the transcript below.

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST, "COUNTDOWN":  A headline that brings with it simultaneous pain and hope.  More remains found, even today at Ground Zero.  Inside the medical examiners office, once again trying to match every fragment to a name and therefore to a grieving family.

Sixty-one months and nearly two weeks after the 9/11 attacks, not only is there no memorial to the victims, but more than four years after their relatives, their friends, the city, the country were told that there were no more remains of the victims to be found, they have suddenly begun to find more at the World Trade Center. 

Thirty-six body parts from an as yet untold number of 9/11 victims were recovered today from a single manhole.  The total over the past five days is has now exceeded 150. 

Nine more manholes, three underground service boxes, and 12 more underground sites that were allegedly searched for remains years ago, must now be reinspected, if the city can find them.  The electric company, ConEdison says it is still trying to figure out the exact location of the remaining manholes, which were all paved over in favor of a service road back in 2002. 

A year-and-a-half after that the New York City Medical Examiner’s Office was still sifting through remains for DNA evidence to try and identify the victims of the 9/11 attacks.  Now three years later, the medical examiners will resume their grim tasks and after the anger subsides, the hopes of thousands, that they will finally have a piece of a loved one to bury, will grow again. 

For in this awful process, the Medical Examiner's office and the victim’s families had developed a remarkable bond, one that we first looked at on our special edition of COUNTDOWN from September 11, 2003. 

Videotape report from 2003:

ANNOUNCER: Keith Olbermann has a live update from New York City. 

OLBERMANN: Body parts found on the fourteenth floor of the World Financial Center.  With the efficiency and dispassion of a bank teller, a woman dispatcher repeats the grim news, “Body parts found on the fourteenth floor of the World Financial Center.”  

OLBERMANN:  That was Friday, September 14.  And by then, the grisliness of those discoveries had been superseded by the hope of closure, of identification by DNA.

DR.  ROBERT SHALER, NEW YORK MEDICAL EXAMINER’S OFFICE:  I’ve spent my entire career looking at dead bodies and looking at the destruction that one human can do to another.  But, I’ve never seen anything like this. 

For nearly two year, Dr.  Robert Shaler has led the New York Medical Examiner’s Office in its forensic investigation of 9/11.  From a small cramped lab, Dr. Shaler and his colleagues have respectfully, but meticulously studied nearly 20,000 human remains.  They have sometimes had no more to work with than a single tooth.  Yet they have identified well over half of all the victims. 

SHALER:  I would love to be able to identify everybody, but I don’t think that’s possible. 

OLBERMANN:  The number of identifications has begun to drop.  The science is not there, not yet, to identify the remaining 60 percent of the forensic evidence. 

The family of New York City firefighter Michael Ragusa, was lucky.  His remains were not identified, but last November, his parents were reminded that he had given blood.  There would be something of Michael Ragusa to bury. 

And what of the others who have nothing, or little to inter?  

OLBERMANN:  Barry Zelman’s brother, Kenneth Albert Zelman, was on the 99th floor of the North Tower, that morning.  Part of Ken Zelman’s right leg was identified.  That was all. 

BARRY ZELMAN, LOST BROTHER IN WTC:  We made a decision that enough, it’s been two years, and now it’s time to bury what we have. 

OLBERMANN:  His family had held out, hoping for more.  Just as the medical examiner’s office had held out, hoping for more.  The families and the scientists have become interconnected in a way no one could have imagined.  By some perverse fate, this building, better known as the city morgue, has become a sacred place for many of the loved ones.

SHALER:  About every three weeks, we still have a meeting at the Medical Examiner’s Office with families. 

ZELMAN:  There are great people down in the Medical Examiner’s Office and they want to do right for the families. 

SHALER:  There’s concern about our emotions and our well being as we are for theirs, and so it’s become a very close working relationship, almost a family type of relationship. 

OLBERMANN:  Thus, the close working relationship now evolves into something new.  The Medical Examiner’s Office thinks more imaginative ways of DNA matching could identify as many as 200 more victims in the next year.  But, that would still leave about 1,100 people unidentified.  The unidentified remains will be interred; carefully preserved in hopes someday they will be identified. 

SHALER:  I’m hopeful sometime in the future, there will be technology that can address those samples so that these remains can be returned to the families or maybe even make new identifications from them. 

OLBERMANN:  In the interim, they will be kept here, below the memorial that will rise, soon enough, to all of the dead of the World Trade Center.  Their resting places will have no names or gravestones.  But we will remember, nonetheless, that they are here.

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