May 15th, 2014
10:21 AM ET
6 months ago

As Obama visits 9/11 museum, a call to intervene in dispute over remains

New York (CNN) - The mother of a New York City firefighter who died in the September 11, 2001 terror attacks says President Barack Obama should speak out in the long-running dispute over the placement of human remains at the 9/11 memorial museum.

Obama, along with First Lady Michelle Obama, toured the museum Thursday morning before speaking at a dedication ceremony. The museum, which opens to the public next week, will house unidentified remains from the terror attacks, which has left some victims' families outraged.

"Our sons died saving people in this city," said Sally Regenhard, whose 28-year-old son, Christian, died on 9/11. "They died for this city and for this country, and they're being treated as a museum exhibit. My son is being used as a marketing tool for the 9/11 museum."

Regenhard spoke to CNN outside the memorial museum on Thursday ahead of Obama's speech. She said that while she supports the President generally, she was "looking to him for leadership on this matter."

"It's devastating to us," she said. "Devastating,"

Families who oppose the current placement of the unidentified remains have advocated for a separate memorial for their loved ones. They say the underground museum is prone to flooding, and have said the $24 entrance fee is inappropriate for a place akin to a cemetery.

9/11 museum: Tragedy turns the mundane into memorial

Asked about the entrance fee on Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the President was focused more on marking a significant point in the decade since 9/11.

"I'm not saying that those questions and debates and concerns aren't valid, but at this point the President and first lady will be focused on the memorial itself - not the memorial, but the museum itself and the events that it will provide an opportunity for so many people to recall because of the significance of that moment and its aftermath to our history and to so many people around the world," Carney said.

In 2011, 17 families of 9/11 victims petitioned a court to force the museum to consult with the families before deciding what to do with the remains. They also asked for a congressional hearing. Both efforts were unsuccessful.

9/11 Museum documentary stirs controversy on eve of opening

The remains will be stored behind a museum wall inscribed with a quote from the Roman poet Virgil: "No day shall erase you from the memory of time."

The medical examiner's office has custody of 7,930 unidentified remains, which account for 36% of the 21,906 remains recovered, according to the office's most recent statistics. The medical examiner will continue to work to identify the remains.

Families of the victims will be able to visit the repository's Reflection Room in the days before the museum's official opening on May 21. After that, they can schedule appointments to visit the private room.

– CNN's Kevin Liptak and Ray Sanchez contributed to this report.


Filed under: 9/11 • New York • President Obama
soundoff (51 Responses)
  1. Dean

    I'm sure Obama will manage to work in a line that blames Bush for 9/11.

    May 15, 2014 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  2. Greg

    It's actually kind of sick. Why would they put human remains in the museum? We're not all conservatives and enjoy watching death.

    May 15, 2014 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  3. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    So now THIS is Obama's fault too? I realize he's the POTUS but he can not control everything. I understand what the lady is saying but is that really an issue for him? My God people he was elected President of the United States, not Messiah or King.

    May 15, 2014 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  4. Qi

    These remains most likely contain the killers as well. Very sad...

    May 15, 2014 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  5. Jay

    I find it an absolute travesty that they would charge any type of money for individuals to experience the history of our nation. How unpatriotic.

    May 15, 2014 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  6. Silence DoGood

    @Dean
    I'm sure Obama will manage to work in a line that blames Bush for 9/11.
    ------------
    When something happens on the Commander's watch, when he had warning of it and his intelligence community failed badly, you bet it is his responsibility. Haven't you ever been in military service?

    And then in response, he invaded the wrong country and 1000's of US soldier died. what would you do with this Commander?

    May 15, 2014 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  7. Lizzie

    Wake up.... But you and your have him declared the Messiah and King.

    May 15, 2014 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  8. Silence DoGood

    @Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....
    So now THIS is Obama's fault too? I realize he's the POTUS but he can not control everything. I understand what the lady is saying but is that really an issue for him? My God people he was elected President of the United States, not Messiah or King.
    -------------–
    Beyond the routine conspiracy theories about Benghazi, and birth certificates, there are serious folks out there who actually do blame Obama for 9/11, sabotaging his own ACA web page, even creating weather like hurricanes. I am not making this up. The Crazy goes Deep.

    May 15, 2014 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  9. Chris-E...al

    BIll Clinton passed on killing Bin Laden that was about the time Hillary was hearing voices in her head .ummm

    May 15, 2014 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  10. You Got It

    If they cave in to CAIR's demands to change the memorial movie, I will lose my sanity.
    CAIR should be labelled as a terrorist organization for the promotion of Sharia Law and intolerance towards other religions and ethnic groups.

    May 15, 2014 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  11. a little sad

    Jay

    I find it an absolute travesty that they would charge any type of money for individuals to experience the history of our nation. How unpatriotic.

    May 15, 2014 11:10 am at 11:10 am |

    How much will you be willing to increase your taxes to maintain the museum if you want it to be free?

    May 15, 2014 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  12. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    Actually Lizzie that would be you and yours. I have NEVER heard one liberal refer to him as such. But most of the GOP klan and their ilk thinks he should walk on water and turn water into wine. He's supposed to snap his fingers and things get fixed with no help from them, that they purposely broke. No Lizzie we on the left know President Obama is just a man, a mere mortal. But one that actually cares about the average person, something no GOPer can claim.

    May 15, 2014 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  13. Kate

    They're not "on display" for the museum visitors to see – they will be behind a wall. The area in which the remains are housed will ONLY be accessible to family members and to the four person team at the medical examiner's office who are still working to this day to identify the remains (an effort the families overwhelmingly support). Additionally, families of 9/11 victims will never be charged to enter the museum or memorial. But, this is information that was published locally in New York and doesn't therefore raise the hackles of the American public like this extremely one-sided piece of "journalism" does.

    May 15, 2014 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  14. CryBabies

    Do they show a video....?????????????. I think the screws are a little TIGHT!

    May 15, 2014 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  15. just asking

    Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....
    So now THIS is Obama's fault too? I realize he's the POTUS but he can not control everything. I understand what the lady is saying but is that really an issue for him? My God people he was elected President of the United States, not Messiah or King.
    ---

    who is saying it is obama fault? please stop making stuff up.

    and when obama sticks his nose into every news event he is asked about, you can't be surprised when he is asked about this as well. it is why presidents should steer clear of this stuff but obama just can't resist the attention and limelight. so stop balming others when obama has brought this upon himself.

    May 15, 2014 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  16. rscalzo

    The memorial is a city facility, not the Federal govt. The city is covering the costs which are extensive. As for the remains, there can be nothing more than a partial fingertip. The entire collection isn't much or what people think it would be. A separate memorial would be not nearly as moving as this. Moving it to a separate location would not do them justice.

    Either way, this is a city and state issue.

    May 15, 2014 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  17. orcahawk

    Wow – $24 to get into the museum? That thing will be a momument to capitalism rather than anything else...

    May 15, 2014 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  18. rscalzo

    As far as the cost, their are charges to enter ,many state memorials such as the Intrepid and other military exhibits. Someone has to cover the costs to build and maintain this facility.

    May 15, 2014 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  19. C

    Very sad ! I would be against this as well. They need to be put to rest not behind a wall to show off

    May 15, 2014 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  20. CryBabies

    Wake Up People! Many Rivers to Cross...I claim what you claim I cannot or don't claim. Have a nice day in your world.

    May 15, 2014 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  21. Don

    It's hard to say what I would do in their situation.

    On the one hand, you know that behind that wall are the remains of someone who made the ultimate sacrifice. Whether it's my family member or not, I know that it COULD be, and that they are being remembered. I'd know that, regardless of whose remains are actually there, they represent, and indeed could be, the heroes of that horrific day. And even if I did know it was my relative, I can't think of any better place to be interred.

    On the other hand, having the remains of your loved ones will help bring closure. I know that for me, personally, until I saw the actual remains, even if it's just a fingernail, Even though I knew the truth in my head, my heart would hold out hope that somehow, somewhere, my loved one made it through and just isn't able to contact me.

    I guess my gut says: When the remains are identified, give the families the option of taking them for a family burial or leaving them interred there. But until then, treat it as a a humble and holy place where the remains can be held with care and honor, and people can come and reflect on the loss and pay their respects, in much the same way they do at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

    May 15, 2014 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  22. smith

    The remains should not be on display at the museum. If the victims familes were ok with it thats a different story.

    May 15, 2014 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  23. Rudy NYC

    Greg

    It's actually kind of sick. Why would they put human remains in the museum? We're not all conservatives and enjoy watching death.
    =====================================================================
    First of all, I'm not defending the current decisions. The remains are not in the museum. They are stored in a separate part of the museum complex, which is unavailable to the general public and museum goers. Families and relatives of the victims are not charged a fee to enter the special area.

    Super Storm Sandy aside, the area is not prone to chronic flooding. How many stories have you ever heard about the old World Trade Center garage being flooded out? None.

    May 15, 2014 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  24. Silence DoGood

    @Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....
    Actually Lizzie that would be you and yours. I have NEVER heard one liberal refer to him as such. But most of the GOP klan and their ilk thinks he should walk on water and turn water into wine. He's supposed to snap his fingers and things get fixed with no help from them, that they purposely broke. No Lizzie we on the left know President Obama is just a man, a mere mortal. But one that actually cares about the average person, something no GOPer can claim.
    ----------–
    I don't know how Louis Farrakhan is classified but he referred to Obama as Messiah on occasion and certainly celebrities like Oprah referred to him in grand terms like "The One".

    Hey, I am a liberal but we need to be honest with ourselves as the conscience of the country. I personally think of Obama as a great president doing a great job considering the terrorist abroad and here at home.

    May 15, 2014 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  25. Wake Up People! Many Rivers to cross.....

    Well Silence... You know what they say... You can't fix stupid....

    May 15, 2014 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
1 2 3