New York Post
March 28, 2004
9/11 KIN: GIVE US ARTIFACTS
By SUSAN EDELMAN
About a third of 9/11 families are still hoping to claim loved ones' missing belongings, but the NYPD won't let them see the thousands of yet-unidentified pieces of jewelry, watches and other objects remaining in storage. Two and a half years after the attacks, the NYPD says it has returned 68 percent of items sifted from the WTC rubble, but still holds about 8,000 "invoices" for personal items or groups of items.
While families can continue to give the NYPD descriptions of specific items they are looking for, the department told The Post that it has no plans to let next of kin see photographs of the objects or examine them in person - as was done after the Oklahoma City federal-building bombing in 1995. That's frustrating to families - especially those who recovered little or no remains and say the missing items hold great sentimental value. "Why are these personal items sitting in an NYC office to never be claimed?" asked Christina Genco, who lost her brother Peter, a Cantor Fitzgerald employee.
Several families told The Post that when they called or faxed descriptions of lost items to the NYPD Property Clerk's Office, they never heard back.
Others say clerks treated them rudely in the dingy office, which is sometimes visited by derelicts and offenders seeking return of confiscated property. The family of Scott Schertzer, another Cantor Fitzgerald employee, hopes to recover Scott's favorite cap, from the University of Michigan, which he stashed in his backpack on 9/11. "I could never understand why he loved that hat so much, but he did and that's why it's so important to me," said Scott's dad, Paul.
Wounds were opened this month amid reports that FBI agents who helped at Ground Zero or raked through debris at the Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island took "souvenirs."
"I believe there's over 1,000 families who are wondering about personal property," said William Doyle, a family advocate who lost a son in the attacks. More than a year ago, Doyle and other advocates met with NYPD officials to discuss creating a photo catalog or secure Web site for families to view unidentified items. "We never heard anything back," he said.
NYPD Inspector Michael Coan said the department dropped those ideas and won't let families look at items because of privacy concerns, possible fraudulent claims and other legal issues.
But families say it may be their last hope of finding objects they would cherish. Stacey Farrell is desperately seeking the gold Claddagh ring she gave her firefighter husband, James, a father of three, on their 20th anniversary. It was engraved, "Forever, My Love." She knows he wore the ring at his death because French brothers making a documentary on firefighters filmed James wearing it inside the WTC. "He hated jewelry - that's the only thing he wore," she said. "I know how much it meant to him."
Marian Fontana, president of the 9-11 Widows and Victims Family Association, said she's "one of the lucky ones" because the remains of her firefighter husband Dave were recovered. But she wonders what happened to belongings such as his FDNY helmet and his Maltese cross inscribed on the back with their son's name, Aiden.
HOW OKLAHOMA GOT IT DONE
NY Post - March 28, 2004 -- Families of victims in the Oklahoma City bombing were allowed to view salvaged objects to find anything that belonged to their loved ones. Mountains of items sifted from the 1995 blast at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building were cleaned and spread out in a warehouse. Survivors and families were escorted through to claim items they recognized.