By Daniel Burke
Religion News Service
WASHINGTON (RNS) Relatives of 9/11 victims who believe debris from Ground Zero contains human remains and should be given a suitable burial said they are "shocked" that the Supreme Court on Monday (Oct. 4) refused to hear their appeal.
"Denying our right to present this in court is a denial of justice that is indeed shocking," said Diane Horning, whose son, Matthew, was killed nine years ago in the terrorist attack at the World Trade Center. "Denying the burial is a blatant denial of our free exercise of religion."
Horning is president and co-founder of WTC Families for Proper Burial, a group that believes the 1.6 million tons of debris left by the collapsing towers in 2001 has not been adequately sifted for remains and should not be dumped in a landfill on Staten Island. No remains have been found for nearly 1,100 of the 2,752 9/11 victims, according to The Associated Press.
Lower courts have sided with New York City officials, who argue that they have already looked through the tons of debris for remains.
"The city approached the task with dignity, care and respect, and as a result, thousands of human remains and personal items were located," Peter Wies, deputy chief of the New York City Law Department's World Trade Center unit, told Bloomberg News.
Horning sharply criticized New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg for supporting the right of Muslims to build an Islamic community center near Ground Zero, while denying a proper burial for 9/11 victims.
"He has been given the absolute authority to decide that none of the people who died at the World Trade Center should be permitted the rites and rituals of religious burials," Horning said.