May 15th, 2014
10:21 AM ET
9 years 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."

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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.

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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. Sniffit

    Funny anecdote I read elsewhere: The memorial program was scheduled to have someone perform "Bridge Over Trouble Water" after Christie spoke and was leaving stage. The only reason that didn't happen was because she fell sick, so another performer ended up signing "Amazing Grace" instead.

    May 15, 2014 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
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