9/11 families appeal to judge on victims list

One World Trade Center rises above the lower

One World Trade Center rises above the lower Manhattan skyline and the National September 11 Memorial, lower right, in New York City. The behemoth that will replace the Twin Towers destroyed in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks became New York City's tallest skyscraper April 30, when workers erected steel columns that raised it to a height of a little more than 1,250 feet. (April 17, 2012) (Credit: AP)

Seventeen families of 9/11 victims have asked a judge to reverse a lower court decision rejecting their request for a list of 2,749 names and addresses of 9/11 families.

They filed the appeal in the hopes of using the list to poll the victims' families about whether they support the city's plan to place unidentified remains under the 9/11 museum at Ground Zero.

In the papers, the families say it is "disrespectful" to keep the remains in a place traveled by tourists.

The lawsuit against the city was rejected last year by a state Supreme Court Justice in Manhattan, who ruled it would be an invasion of privacy to release the families' names and addresses.

"The city has the list and we want all the families to decide where is a place of dignity where the dead can be honored, and that reminds us about what happened that day -- not T-shirts and coffee cups sold at a museum shop," said retired FDNY Deputy Chief Jim Riches in an interview Monday.

According to the court papers filed Monday at an appeals court in Manhattan, the remains should be "placed in a respectful and accessible location separate from the museum and above ground."

The appeal also states the remains should be encased in a "Tomb of the Unknowns" on the memorial grounds, and family members should be able to visit their loved ones spontaneously or with solemnity."

According to the National Sept. 11 Memorial and Museum plan, family members can visit the "repository" in a private viewing area -- not visible or accessible to the public -- 70 feet underneath the museum. Family members can schedule appointments outside museum hours and will not be charged a museum fee.

A Sept. 11 Memorial and Museum summary dating back to 2002 states that thousands of family members were notified of plans to place the "repository for the remains at bedrock" between the Twin Tower footprints. The plan received "overwhelming feedback from family members" supporting the idea, the summary said.

The area would be marked with a wall and a quotation by Virgil: "No day shall erase you from the memory of time."Norman Siegel, attorney for the families, said early correspondences with families were about a memorial, not a museum. "My family clients feel very strongly that the museum is a commercial venture and not a place of reverence." Family members were never given a choice where the remains should rest, he said.

Charles G. Wolf, who lost his wife in Tower One, believes the underground location is proper.

"This is a settled matter. We were given what we asked for and that was that all unidentified remains be placed at bedrock. That is where they were found in the pit and that is where their graves are," he said in an interview Monday.

Sally Regenhard, whose son Christian Regenhard was an FDNY probationary firefighter who died on 9/11, and whose remains were never found, opposes placing the remains underneath the museum.

"The bottom line is that we were told the remains would be interred in a distinct and separate place from any visitor center or museum. I know that because I helped write it," said Regenhard, referring to plans drawn up when she worked with the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., to designate remains at Ground Zero during the early planning stages.

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