MIDTOWN — A group of families of 9/11 victims are continuing their fight against a plan to entomb the unidentified remains of 9/11 victims in the basement of the National September 11 Memorial Museum.
The group, represented by attorney Norman Siegel, filed an appeal earlier this month after a judge in October denied their request for a list of the addresses of all 2,749 victims' relatives. The 17 families represented by Siegel had requested the addresses to poll all 9/11 families about the plan to bury the unidentified remains in the underground museum.
More than 1,100 families have never received any remains of their loved ones following the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
Siegel filed a Freedom of Information Law request in June 2011 asking the city for the names and addresses of all 9/11 families.
At the time, a spokesman for the city said releasing the addresses would violate the families’ privacy.
Siegel maintains the privacy issues are moot, because he is requesting that the city turn the list of addresses over to a retired judge, who would serve as a neutral party and would use it only to send out a single mailing. Siegel said he and his clients would never see the list.
A representative from the mayor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.
Several relatives of 9/11 victims held a press conference at Siegel’s Midtown office Monday.
The group of relatives, holding photos of their fallen children, said they want to have a say in what happens to the unidentified remains.
Some object to having to descend through a public museum to reach the remains, which will sit in a sealed space between the Twin Towers footprints.
Memorial developers plan to keep them 70 feet below ground, entombed behind a granite wall emblazoned with the Virgil quote: "No day shall erase you from the memory of time."
Rosemary Cain, whose firefighter son George Cain died on 9/11, said keeping the “sacred remains” in the basement is “not respectful” and “not a tribute to any of the blessed victims.”
“We want them above ground, we want them in a place of respect and dignity,” she said. "They don’t belong in the bowels of a museum, turning that place into a freak show.”
Many relatives, like retired FDNY deputy chief Jim Riches, whose firefighter son, Jim Riches Jr. was killed, want the city to build an aboveground commemorative tomb.
“We want a proper burial for our loved ones,” Riches said. “They’re American heroes, they died heroes that day and they deserve better than to be put in a basement of a memorial museum."
A spokeswoman for the 9/11 Memorial declined to comment on the appeal Monday and referred questions to the city. The memorial is not a party in Siegel’s lawsuit.
In the past, representatives of the museum said that the remains would not be on display and that the space would be managed by the Medical Examiner's office.
In addition, the museum also plans a private family room adjacent to the repository where relatives can reflect in privacy.
The remains will be periodically tested by the Medical Examiner to continue attempts to identify them.
In the past, several 9/11 family members wrote a letter of support for the plan, saying it "treats the remains with the utmost care, respect and reverence."
A spokesman for the National September 11 Memorial & Museum has said rebuilding officials have repeatedly consulted with families, through many mailings, forums and hearings over the past 10 years.
"[The families] have repeatedly stated it is essential the remains return to the sacred bedrock of the site," the spokesman has said.
But Cain and others said they have not been consulted about what happens.
For her part, Cain said she doesn’t want her son there.
After 9/11, Cain said all she did was pray to get her son out of the rubble.
“I wanted my son out of that hell hole,” she said. “Now they want to put him back in that hell hole.”