Saturday, October 21, 2006

Tell Maura I Love Her

Construction workers building the transit hub on the site of the World Trade Center found human remains in an abandoned manhole last Thursday morning, victims of the Muslim atrocity of Sep 11. The manhole covers were paved over during the initial recovery effort to bring in the cranes needed to move the ruins. A hundred bones have been found, from an inch to a foot long. They look like ribs, arms, legs and vertebra. Personal effects were found, including a wallet.

"Oh my God, is that more of Matthew?" said Diane Horning the day after the discovery. Diane's son, Matthew Horning was a database administrator for the Marsh & McLennan insurance company on the 95th floor of the north tower of the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11, 2001. He was 26. They found parts of his body near the manhole over four years ago. Matthew's family has long ago held a funeral and it is distressing to have remains continuing to show up that may be their son. Says Diane, "But it's been sitting there for over five years."

Matthew had graduated magna cum laude from James Madison University. He loved the Mets and the Jets and animals and played the guitar a little. He loved Star Wars enough to think that he might write his own fantasy novel or comic book someday. He lived in Hoboken, NJ and had worked for Marsh & McLennan for a couple years. Matthew told a coworker at an office Christmas party in 1999 that he had two major goals in life: play the guitar better and find someone to love.

He met Maura Landry the following August at a Mexican restaurant where mutual friends had gathered for dinner. She lived in Hoboken, too. "Hi!" he called down to her at the other end of the table. "We're neighbors." He started coming home with what his family called his "Maura smile." His sister, Dana, said he was getting pretty sappy.

After a year, Matthew was planning to pop the question to Maura. He had asked his Dad how to buy an engagement ring. They planned to go shopping for it the next Wednesday, September 12th. Matthew was hoping for a future with Maura that included children and a big dog. Says Maura, “We didn’t have to live in the biggest house on the street, but the people inside had to be happy.” Maura wanted four children but Matthew talked her down to three. He was hot to walk her down the aisle to the "Star Wars" theme. Said Maura, "We’ll see."

Muslim fanatic Mohammed Atta piloted American Airline's Flight 11, a Boeing 767 jumbo jet, directly into the floors where Marsh & McLennan did business, hitting seven out of eight of them. Matthew survived the initial impact and the intense fire that followed. He made a couple cell phone calls to his family. He asked his father to tell Maura he loved her. He text-messaged a co-worker outside the building: "Tell Maura I love her." He kept communicating right up until the end. His last text message said simply, "Scared."

His father watched the North Tower collapse from his office window. Kurt says of his son, "Funny, handsome, millions of friends. We had so many people who came to tell us he was their best friend, and I thought you could only have one. I still can't believe it happened."

Of the 2749 people who are believed to have perished in the World Trade Center, remains of 1599 have been found. Three hundred intact bodies were found, of which only a dozen were identifiable by sight. The rest were found in pieces, over 20,000 individual body parts in total. That's an average of fifteen pieces per victim. A single tooth was all that was found for one person. One man was broken into two hundred pieces.

For 1150 of the victims, there are no identifiable remains at all. The three billion tons of debris acted like a giant mortar and pestle which ground the bodies to bits. Much of the remains were burned to ash and mixed with pulverized concrete and building materials. Unrecognizeable.

The first forensic teams from the FBI and New York Police sifting through remains at Ground Zero found a few of Matthew's personal effects and three small fragments of his body. They were returned to his family. That's what they buried.

The remaining rubble from the World Trade Center was hauled by the truckload to the Fresh Kills dump on Staten Island, where New York City had taken its trash for a century. The forensic teams sifted through it again for human remains. That's when Matthew's company security badge, which he hung around his neck, was found.

The forensic teams sifted through the debris again. A year after the badge was returned to them, Matthew's wallet was found and returned. It contained his company ID, a subway fare card, five scorched twenties, and a ticket stub from a baseball game. His Mom, Diane, says, "It just makes me shake when I open it. Because I know he touched his Blockbuster card ..."

Sifting through the two million tons of debris trucked to Fresh Kills culled out the identifiable remains larger than one-quarter inch. Of the remains found, 53% of them have been identified, mostly through DNA analysis. However, the medical examiner's office can not identify 9328 remains. No good DNA could be extracted from them because they are too scorched, soaked or decomposed. Work has stopped on them while they are stored in the hope that future technology will reveal their identity.

The future came faster than anyone expected. A Virginia company developed new methods of DNA identification that may identify more of the remains. Technical progress does not translate into emotional progress as it is terribly painful to have the remains dribble in over years. Kurt Horning says, "It's a horrible way to have your loved one returned to you, bit by bit by bit. We'll never say no to the medical examiner, but you think you're finished getting calls at dinner time. Now all the doors are open again. What was returned was so small — not even one-half of 1 percent of what my son was. It's just such an unusual and unnatural situation. This could go on forever as science catches up with technology."

Emotions are also churned up by the discovery of remains in new places. Workers demolishing the Deutsche Bank building, damaged in the Sep 11 attack, found 760 bone fragments evidently tossed there from the World Trade Center. There is another neighboring building where cleanup work is due to begin which may also yield fresh remains.

The 1.2 million tons of remaining debris from the World Trade Center covers 48 acres of Fresh Kills to a depth of ten to twenty feet, lying on an eighteen inch bed of dirt that separates it from the century's worth of city trash beneath. The debris that was screened for human remains, much of it ashes, was buried on Hills One and Nine. There is a strong smell of methane from rotting garbage at the site. The city plans to eventually make the site into a Ground Zero memorial. Presently, only family members may visit with an escort by the Sanitation Department.

Diane Horning visits the site and does not like what she sees: "I don't go because it gives me any sense of connection or peace. I feel his presence, but in an unsettled way, that in essence I'm being asked not to leave him there." Diane and Kurt believe that their son is buried there among tons of crushed concrete, sheetrock, and glass with thousands of other victims. Says Diane, "The dead are not here at Ground Zero, though for many of us their spirits are still here. Their corporal bodies are in a garbage dump." Diane calls it a "national shame."

So Diane Horning, retired school teacher, co-founded "WTC Families for a Proper Burial." They don't want the remains of their families buried in a dump. They demand the city sift through the ashes again to retrieve the bits of their loved ones they fear still remain there. Diane argues, "This is Matt's ID badge from Marsh, and it was found at Fresh Kills."

Maura is outraged, too. In a letter to the New York Times, she wrote, "While I am deeply grateful to the men and women who worked diligently in the Fresh Kills landfill, I cannot help but be horrified that minuscule particles of human flesh and bone from the victims were left among common household trash when the recovery operation was complete in July 2002. I am glad that items were saved to document the horror of that terrible morning for future generations. But as the fiancée of Matthew Horning, who was killed on Sept. 11, I do not find much comfort in those relics being saved when his ashen remains have been treated like trash."

New York City doesn't want to do it. The city says the 500,000 tons of ashes have been sifted three times already and that moving them would cost $450 million. The Hornings dispute that, noting that the initial sortings cost $67 million. They think the federal government should pick up the tab.

Kurt made the argument during the Republican Party convention in New York City in 2003. He made his protest at the World Trade Center site, arguing that the money spent on the Republican "coronation" could have been spent on moving the ashes out of Fresh Kills.

Kurt has taken it further than that, falling in with the Truther movement that promotes the theory that the US government was complicit in the Sep 11 attacks which killed his son. He has signed a "911 Truth Statement" from the 911Truth.org that claims that half of New York City thinks the government knew of the attack and sat on its hands. They want a Congressional investigation to get to the "truth."

It's crazed nonsense supported by lefties who want to throw tar on the Bush administration, people like Ralph Nader, former Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, actor Ed Asner, Medea Benjamin & Jodie Evans of Code Pink. Most of these conspiracy theories are neatly answered in the State Department's Misinformation website. Nevertheless, they have filed a criminal complaint with the New York State Attorney General that charges that "there is ample evidence and probable cause to believe that many grave and still unresolved crimes were committed by US officials prior to, during and after the events of 9/11."

And so Sep 11, which began in madness, spawns more madness.

33 Comments:

Blogger Subsunk said...

Good Story, Tantor.

I like the way you think.

Subsunk

Sun Oct 22, 09:39:00 AM 2006  
Blogger senorlechero said...

Awesome story.......you really gave a face to the Hornings and Maura......and I can't help but feel sympathy for them.

It's a shame that their tragedy has led them to nearly psychotic delusions about what they are owed bye the rest of us.

Sun Oct 22, 10:52:00 AM 2006  
Blogger D.Daddio Al-Ozarka said...

"Progressivism"....Hmmmmph!

Please vote. DON'T stay home!

Mon Oct 23, 08:10:00 AM 2006  
Anonymous Eric Shirley said...

Man, did I get sucked into that! I read the story to my wife over morning coffee and then I got to the end. I still cannot get myself to believe that so many people believe that "truther" crap. Some of my own family members suffer from the disease. It really saps my faith in the prospects for our long term survival. God help us.

E.Shirley

Mon Oct 23, 08:55:00 AM 2006  
Anonymous SWLiP said...

I wasn't ready for that twist at the end, at all. I guess it goes to show how ordinary people can become deranged by grief. And many liberals apparently find it easier to believe in the malignancy of the Bush administration than to believe that radical Muslims hated us enough to try to wipe out tens of thousands of Americans on a September morning.

Mon Oct 23, 09:14:00 AM 2006  
Anonymous LibertyNews said...

Good story, and depite them turning to liberal nut-jobs for solace they are right. Those remains should not stay there.

Even if they have to move it all, without re-sifting, it should be put someplace better. They deserve a better resting place than a garbage pit.

Mon Oct 23, 09:35:00 AM 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

IMO, this should be decided by the people closest to decide. Having said that, I'll contribute this: From childhood to middle age, I have watched people grieve for losses in four wars, and so am almost certain that reburying the remains will bring no peace to the grieving. That's another thing those madmen took from us.

Mon Oct 23, 11:03:00 AM 2006  
Blogger Tantor said...

I didn't really want to include the truther part as I felt it spoiled a good story, but reality trumped my desire to spin a sugary fable. It's a real thing that needed to be included.

It reminds me of the King family who came to believe that it was LBJ who assassinated Martin Luther King, not James Earl Ray, whom they insanely believed to be innocent. King's son, Dexter, even met with Ray in prison to tell him he knew he was innocent. It was grotesque.

Maybe it made the King family feel better to believe that the entire US government conspired to kill MLK rather than some sorry little loser like Ray. Maybe it gives the Horning family some strange comfort to believe the US government was responsible for their son's death rather than a handful of religious fanatics from a failed civilization who killed their son for nothing.

Mon Oct 23, 12:19:00 PM 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are there many relatives out there who have made it clear that they're not really interested in the remains? I'm not sure I'd be - but who knows until you have to face that sort of situation.

Mon Oct 23, 12:29:00 PM 2006  
Anonymous Anon824 said...

Get ready . . . this is harsh.

Thousands of people die every year in the US from accidents, homicides, disease. They are dead, just as much, and no less, than those we lost on 9/11.

I am glad I did not lose a loved one on 9/11, just as I'm glad I did not lose a loved one in the Amish school shooting, or during Katrina, or in a car wreck on I-40 on a clear summer day.

I think we should gather enough of the ashes from the landfill to give a vase to each dececeased's family, plus 51 more . . . one to be buried at the state capitols of each state, and in DC.

We -- the people -- have spent millions of dollars, and the families have received millions of dollars.

Its time to end this.

Rest in peace. Live in peace.

Mon Oct 23, 12:48:00 PM 2006  
Blogger SkyePuppy said...

Anonymous (12:03:40 PM) said, "[I] am almost certain that reburying the remains will bring no peace to the grieving."

I believe you're right. How many times have we watched the families of murder victims put their grief on hold "until justice is done," only to have them say justice didn't make it better?

Reburying the remains from the WTC is the right thing to do, but it won't make the families any less bereft. And even if a Congressional investigation were to say, Yes, the Bush administration orchestrated 9/11 so they would have an excuse to blow up large portions of Afghanistan and Iraq, that wouldn't do anything to mend the gaping hole in the 9/11 families' hearts.

Grief is a horrible thing to go through in the best of circumstances, but grief over senseless loss is beyond imagining.

As an aside, if you're grieving a loss, you can find help and support through www.griefshare.org (I'm not affiliated with them), a Christian organization. You can enter your zipcode and find a hosted by a group near you.

Mon Oct 23, 01:16:00 PM 2006  
Blogger SkyePuppy said...

Oops. Make that last sentence in my previous comment:

You can enter your zipcode and find a group hosted by a church near you.

I hate it when I mess things up...

Mon Oct 23, 01:50:00 PM 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am one of those so called liberal nut-jobs and to set the record straight, not all of us believe the Truther nonsense.

Stereotyping is a dangerous slope to head down... It's led to race riots, oppression and - yes - 9/11.

Be mindful.

Mon Oct 23, 02:35:00 PM 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

interesting story. my only complaint would be that it would have been more "journalistic" of you to state that Maura's letter was from 2003 and not related to the latest discovery. I think your use of her letter in connection w/ the latest discoveries is a little misleading.

Mon Oct 23, 03:35:00 PM 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I cannot imagine how we would properly bury the remains at Fresh Kills without burying all that industrial debris as well -- pieces of concrete, steel, etc. Is that what the families want?

I tend to agree with Anon824 -- As horrible as the grief for the 9/11 families is, there are thousands of families in this country alone and millions around the world who are grieving with just as much sadness and anger, but they can't focus their anger on the government or demand money for their loss.

Mon Oct 23, 03:46:00 PM 2006  
Anonymous caplight said...

There is something so New York about the demands of the grieving families. You didn't hear anything like this from the families of the Oklahoma City bombing victims. Nobody gave them millions of dollars for thier grief. No body sifted through rubble two, three or four times at the cost of tens of millions of dollars each time. I don't believe you heard anything like it from the families of the victims of the Pentagon crash, not just the military people but even the flight victims. I din't hear anything like it from the victims families of flight 93 either. Isn't that interesting.

Mon Oct 23, 04:50:00 PM 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

caplight...that's because each and every single remains of every single victim were found in oklahoma city and the pentagon. Flight 93 had no remains to recover. There were remains for WTC victims but not all were found b/c not every place was searched properly...that's a fact and not a putdown of the rescue workers. get a grip on reality.

Mon Oct 23, 05:56:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Right Wing said...

I just found your blog today and think it's great. I'll visit here often.

Mon Oct 23, 06:43:00 PM 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The pain of losing loved ones leaves your soul as a factor of your love for them. If you loved them enough, you will NEVER get "over" it.

Mon Oct 23, 07:04:00 PM 2006  
Blogger saj said...

Actually, they did find remains from Flight 93. All small pieces, but still remains, along with personal belongings.

Mon Oct 23, 07:46:00 PM 2006  
Anonymous caplight said...

Somebody once said to me, "You don't get over it, you get on with it." I still respectfully submit it is time for the WTC families to get on with it. We as a nation have more than honored their loss and supported them in their tradgedy.

Mon Oct 23, 08:13:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Incognito said...

Thank you for this!
I still find it incomprehensible how seemingly educated people can believe the U.S. Government had anything to do with 9/11. And how sad and pathetic that they would prefer to believe our government capable of such evil, as opposed to placing blame where it firmly and obviously belongs, with Atta and the rest.

Mon Oct 23, 10:38:00 PM 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a sad and intense sad story. I was wondering why all those people, and all the stuff that was the building and all it's contents were distroyed into tiny pieces. It is very curious why, in less than one hour, the buildings fell due to fire. The first and only buildings to have fallen due to fires, ever, in the history of the world. IMy heart goes out to the families who lost their loved ones. If I had lost a loved one due to a melting building falling at zero gravity (8.7 seconds) which wasn't really melting, becasue it was blown up into minute particles, and my brothers body parts were found four blocks away from where the supoposed "Melting Building" was melting, I would be angry as hell, and want to find out... why?! And "How could this happen?!"

Tue Oct 24, 12:41:00 AM 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous wrote, "The first and only buildings to have fallen due to fires, ever, in the history of the world."

You, Annonymous, are obvously not a firefighter. What an unbelieveable and sweeping statement you just made! And with no research or documentation to back up your "facts."

Tue Oct 24, 06:10:00 AM 2006  
Anonymous Patrickb63 said...

Do we bury the blood-soaked mattress a crime victim dies on because the remains are in the mattress? Do we bury the twisted wreckage of an automobile that still has pieces of the flesh of the driver that died somewhere in it? No. We recover, reverently, what we can of the victim for proper burial. It is sad that so little was left of the 9/11 victims, and as work goes forward at the site any remains should be treated respectfully. But the debris already removed should not be sifted again.

Tue Oct 24, 09:43:00 AM 2006  
Anonymous Jim D. said...

Patrickb63 raises a point many don't think about. I and my spouse work at a hospital. I put small pieces of tissue and blood into biohazard bags for destruction by incineration. My wife works in surgery, and frequently assists in removing damaged or diseased tissue, often large pieces. There aren't any ceremonies for these; we recognize that these parts aren't what make the person. A body is transitory; funerals serve the living, not the dead. These victims and their families have been recognized and honored the government and citizens as best as reasonably possible.

Tue Oct 24, 10:49:00 PM 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amen

Tue Sep 11, 10:38:00 AM 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am truly sorry that you don't really understand the issue at hand. Your dithering blog post with its equally insignificant replies is truly upsetting. Get the facts, read the legal documents and stop judging my parents... they are not "mad" as you so allege. They base their arguments on scientific facts, also supported by the NY Medical Examiner's Office. You, your judgment of my family, and further support of the corrupt Bush administration make me sick.

Dana Horning Crepeau,
daughter of Diane & Kurt Horning
and brother of Matthew Horning

Thu Sep 11, 07:26:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Tantor said...

Dana,

I'm sorry that you lost Matthew, who seems like a wonderful guy. However, the idea that the US government perpetrated the Sep 11 attack on itself is insane nonsense. You should be ashamed to perpetrate such a treasonous lie. The people who murdered your sibling were Muslim terrorists sent by Al Qaeda. Your grief does not justify turning on your own country, especially in league with the thoroughly dishonest and contemptible Truthers. Again, my condolences on your loss.

Thu Sep 11, 08:14:00 PM 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tantor, and all,

My family has not turned on our own country, and I am sorry you believe that any of us are perpetrating a "treasonous lie." I am not associated with the Truther movement, but rather the WTC Families for Proper Burial movement. If you really want to see what WTC Families for Proper Burial, and my parents, stand for, it is to honor the dead and to find a dignified burial for those killed. End of story.

Dana Horning Crepeau,
daughter of Diane & Kurt Horning
and brother of Matthew Horning

Sun Sep 21, 09:28:00 PM 2008  
Blogger Tantor said...

Dana,

I have no wish to add to your grief. You have my sympathy on the issue of searching for remains in Fresh Kills. It's a trade-off between the practical and the emotional. The country could probably sift through Fresh Kills for centuries with ever finer nets and find ever smaller remains. When do we stop? The practical answer seems to be the remains have been substantially recovered. The emotional answer is to render infinite support to recover more remains. I suspect that in the far future Fresh Kills may become an archeological site where artifacts of the Sep 11 attacks will be found with technology to be developed.

I am relieved to read that you are not a Truther. Your comment about the "corrupt Bush administration" is the kind of signature phrase of the Truthers. We disagree about Bush. Re-reading your original response, it's ambiguous as to what exact issue you were rebutting.

I know you must be living this issue and assume that everything you say is obvious to all, but it isn't. If you don't mind advice in forming your argument, I think you should lay out the exact issue you are addresing in concrete detail, what is the current state of affairs, what you would prefer, and why. You should have a thirty second elevator talk to advocate your point of view and a three to five paragraph boilerplate argument that you can paste in a blog like this.

You're not going to find much opposition to honoring the dead of Sep 11 or burying them in a dignified manner. You need to spell out what those terms mean to you and what it takes to get there. Your position is a bit vague right now.

I keep looking at that photo of Matthew, thinking how much it looks like the guys who work with me, and how he should be beating on a keyboard somewhere and living a normal life.

Also, Dana, your signature is confusing. I think you mean sister of Matthew Horning.

Sun Sep 21, 11:39:00 PM 2008  
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