Report: Parts of 9/11 victims’ remains ended up in a landfill

posted at 4:50 pm on February 28, 2012 by Tina Korbe

A lack of oversight and proper training at Delaware’s Dover Air Force base led to the mishandling of both military and civilian remains, according to an investigative report from the Pentagon cited in National Journal today.

According to the report, remains of Sept. 11 victims which could not be identified – either because they were too small or too burned – were cremated at a civilian facility, sent back to Dover, and then sent in a sealed container to a civilian waste disposal company. The firm was supposed to completely incinerate the containers, but the report said “that there was some residual material following incineration” and that “the contractor was disposing of it in a landfill.”

The report notes that “the landfill disposition was not disclosed in the contractual disposal agreement,” but doesn’t identify the company or specify whether the government has pursued any legal action against the firm. No senior Dover officials have been fired over the landfill controversy.

The 86-page report was sparked by media reports that military remains had been cremated at civilian facilities and ultimately sent to a landfill. The articles sparked outrage on Capitol Hill and fury among the tight-knit community of bereaved military families, who said the military had in essence been treating the remains of their loved ones as garbage.

The new report confirms that military remains were mishandled and then goes further. It concluded that military remains weren’t the only ones that ended up in a landfill; the remains of Sept. 11 victims, arguably some of the most venerated in recent American history, were disposed of there as well.

The report cites systemic understaffing as another potential cause of this problem and prescribes a variety of bureaucratic solutions to ensure this never happens again. Let’s hope those prescriptions have some basis in reality and actually serve their purpose. Somewhere along the way, though, we have to begin to recognize that, in the end, what alone prevents this kind of callous disregard for the dead is a sense of the sacredness of the human person and life itself in the first place. What prevents this is individuals taking responsibility for the way they treat other human beings, whether alive or dead.

My heart goes out to the bereaved military families that have grappled with this kind of disrespect before as well as to the families of the Sept. 11 victims.


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It was 11 years ago. Can we let those ‘remains’ RIP now?

I don’t mean to be coarse or crude, but this is a big nothingburger and I really question your decision to even post something like this. It may be instructive as to the utter incompetence of government, but we could glean examples from myriad other sources.

tom daschle concerned on February 28, 2012 at 4:58 PM

The articles sparked outrage on Capitol Hill and fury among the tight-knit community of bereaved military families, who said the military had in essence been treating the remains of their loved ones as garbage.

While I can appreciate the sentiment, this may be a bit much. Every effort is taken to properly identify and separate remains. If anyone has ever taken a cadaver anatomy class, you can appreciate that, like a tragic accident, the leftover body parts are numerous and difficult to identify–moreover, they are small. If 80+% of an individual’s remains have been properly buries, some of those remains may be mixed in with others–particularly after 9/11. Are we really to see to it that every last bit of identifiable evidence is scrutinizingly separated and repatriated to the appropriate casket? That is not necessary, nor is it necessary to be outraged if some of the remaining fragments do not make it there either. While on the surface it may appear to be flippant and callous, it certainly is not. Those crews do their best to properly care for those remains but you do get to a point of diminishing returns, particularly when the parts are numerous, small, and mixed with many other victims.

my 2c

ted c on February 28, 2012 at 4:58 PM

Can we riot? I wanna riot.

Deafdog on February 28, 2012 at 5:01 PM

The way military remains were treated in many instances was disgraceful. Body parts that did not fit in coffins just discarded and incinerated and dumped. Absolutely shameful, but sadly, nothing surprises me anymore.

ellifint on February 28, 2012 at 5:01 PM

After 9/11 I was struck by the fact that there was nothing recognizable anywhere. I think the fact that they found anything identifiable almost a miracle. I’m sorry that this has been handled so poorly.

Cindy Munford on February 28, 2012 at 5:02 PM

“that there was some residual material following incineration”

if that residual material included recognizable bone fragments that remained following incineration, then those items alone should’ve been either inicinerated again, or subsequently repatriated to where they should be.

I am not outraged by this, there is no harm meant, nor disrespect.

ted c on February 28, 2012 at 5:02 PM

I don’t think anyone thinks those remains can be identified, especially the 9/11 remains, but surely there has got to be a middle ground between exhaustively DNA identifying every pin-sized speck and incinerating human remains and dumping them in a landfill.

ellifint on February 28, 2012 at 5:04 PM

This is heart wrenching as my former employer physically handled and sifted through every bit of the material removed from WTC over 7 months period of time. A good friend of mine managed the project.

Everyone and I mean everyone associated with that project did so as a calling to a special job to get perfect in every sense.

Kermit on February 28, 2012 at 5:04 PM

My heart goes out to the bereaved military families that have grappled with this kind of disrespect before as well as to the families of the Sept. 11 victims.
=================================

I fully agree,heart-wrenching for those love ones!

canopfor on February 28, 2012 at 5:06 PM

It would be totally impossible to sift all of the remains of the folks that were ground into a fine pulp and or burned, vaporized etc.
They task to find the bigger chunks was Herculean in itself.

esnap on February 28, 2012 at 5:11 PM

Welcome to Dover Air Force Base
================================

http://www.dover.af.mil/index.asp

canopfor on February 28, 2012 at 5:14 PM

Are they any more dead because of this?

playblu on February 28, 2012 at 5:15 PM

Tina, you really are scraping the bottom of the barrel to gin up traffic with this post. It’s a non-story. But a non-story designed to make certain people angry – over nothing. For what purpose? And don’t say there was no agenda at work here. Everything posted at hoair, save for humping robots, has an agenda.

keep the change on February 28, 2012 at 5:15 PM

“The report cites systemic understaffing as another potential cause of this problem and prescribes a variety of bureaucratic solutions to ensure this never happens again…”

Did the problem just get better…

… or worse?

Seven Percent Solution on February 28, 2012 at 5:18 PM

Can we riot? I wanna riot.

Deafdog on February 28, 2012 at 5:01 PM

Not yet. It’s still winter and it’s cold outside. Be patient. Summer is just around the bend. Then it’s game on and no ones toesy-woesy’s will get chilly.

FlatFoot on February 28, 2012 at 5:20 PM

Meanwhile…

MARSEILLE, France (AP) – Guantanamo Bay detainees will have something new to occupy their time after the completion of a brand new soccer field at the detention facility.

The new field — roughly half the size of an American football field — will be available for use by “highly compliant” detainees at Guantanamo’s Camp 6 this spring, FOX News Channel reported Tuesday.

The project, which cost US taxpayers nearly $750,000, was started in April 2011.

A military police representative, who asked not to be identified, told FOX that allowing outdoor activity helped reduce behavior problems at the camps and limited the amount of interaction between detainees and guards.

Detainees will be afforded “maximum access” of about 20 hours a day to the facility, and will be able to get their via secured passage ways that allow them to reach the recreation yard without the need for military escorts.

tom daschle concerned on February 28, 2012 at 5:20 PM

Dover report: Cremated remains of 9/11 victims dumped in landfill
Stars and Stripes
Published: February 28, 2012
*****************************

WASHINGTON — The mishandling of remains at Dover Port Mortuary — which included dumping in a landfill the incinerated remains of some 9/11 victims — are not shocking given the lack of command authority and structure at the facility, retired Army Gen. John Abizaid said Tuesday.

Abizaid headed a subcommittee of the Defense Health Board charged with examining the mortuary’s policies and procedures. The subcommittee, which released its report Tuesday, was formed after an Air Force Inspector General report last fall, responding to whistleblowers’ complaints, found several incidents in which servicemembers’ remains were being handled improperly at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.(More…)
=================================

http://www.stripes.com/news/dover-report-cremated-remains-of-9-11-victims-dumped-in-landfill-1.170136

canopfor on February 28, 2012 at 5:23 PM

Tina, you really are scraping the bottom of the barrel to gin up traffic with this post. It’s a non-story. But a non-story designed to make certain people angry – over nothing. For what purpose? And don’t say there was no agenda at work here. Everything posted at hoair, save for humping robots, has an agenda.

keep the change on February 28, 2012 at 5:15 PM

er, this is simply a followup on a story that broke a while ago. The Pentagon just disclosed the results of the investigation this week, that’s all.

As for “making people angry”, so far at the link there’s exactly 1 Comment. And he can easily be ignored.

Del Dolemonte on February 28, 2012 at 5:23 PM

I say this as an Air Force veteran. Once you get away from SAC and other flying units, the Air Force is by far the most screwed-up branch of our military.

bw222 on February 28, 2012 at 5:23 PM

Is it really that hard to put remains in a cemetery? Come on. This is just common sense. Put the remains in a cemetery. And then you can make a big plaque saying “Unknown Soldiers” or “Unknown 9/11 Victims”. It really makes me mad that these people can’t figure this stuff out.

SoulGlo on February 28, 2012 at 5:27 PM

It’s what’s left after the good part is gone to be with G-d.

Leave it alone. It doesn’t matter.

Hint: From ashes to ashes and from dust to dust. Read about it.

moochy on February 28, 2012 at 5:30 PM

I am not outraged by this, there is no harm meant, nor disrespect.
ted c on February 28, 2012 at 5:02 PM

Yes, this was a very sad mistake but it certainly doesn’t sound as if disrespect was some kind of a driving force behind it.

whatcat on February 28, 2012 at 5:30 PM

The Dover Port MortuaryIndependent
Review Subcommittee
*******************

Dover 911 Victims Report
*************************

http://www.scribd.com/doc/83091252/Dover-911-Victims-Report

canopfor on February 28, 2012 at 5:30 PM

Just think of the outrage if this were Qurans…

catmman on February 28, 2012 at 5:35 PM

As someone who was at the Pentagon everyday working on the Recovery and Reconstruction, I can tell you that there would have been no way to recover every piece of human remains. The debris was piled as far as they eye could see in North Parking. Cadaver dogs (I naively thought they were bomb sniffing dogs until I found out what they were really doing. The dogs and handlers walked the piles (and the crash site) for weeks…until the area was turned over to the Renovation Office from FBI custody. The rubble was still smouldering for days after…filled with concrete, wood, furniture…everything imaginable.
To say that those working in the Recovery did not do everything in their power to respectively collect and document every piece of human remains is dishonest.

oceansidecon on February 28, 2012 at 5:37 PM

What do people think happens to all the bits and pieces of flesh, fat, bone, etc, removed during an operation?

Blake on February 28, 2012 at 5:45 PM

Don’t think many people are casting aspersions on those who recovered remains…I don’t think those people were the ones who made the decision to throw human remains in landfills. That’s the issue. As Soulglo said above, why not a cemetery?? No one would think that there is any conceivable way, at this point, to identify remains, and further, no one expected every speck to be recovered from the site. We all know how devastating the attacks were on human bodies. Again, there’s a middle ground here, between just basically throwing human remains away in the dump, and running DNA tests on such small fragments to try to identify them.

ellifint on February 28, 2012 at 5:51 PM

Blake on February 28, 2012 at 5:45 PM

oceansidecon on February 28, 2012 at 5:37 PM

Every last piece of debris from WTC was mechanically sifted and picked through in a 7 month period of time. At first it was under the jurisdiction and oversight of NY Harbor and Terminal District/State of NY until the Feds started paying the bills then the FBI took over. It was still the same contractor who performed the work, Garner Environmental, Deer Park, TX (they got the work because they had responded to several situations in NYC faster than locals had in the past).

Kermit on February 28, 2012 at 5:52 PM

And probably a few scraps of a Koran or two, also.

Who’s running things so frikkin’ carelessly?

profitsbeard on February 28, 2012 at 5:55 PM

I am not outraged by this, there is no harm meant, nor disrespect.
ted c on February 28, 2012 at 5:02 PM
Yes, this was a very sad mistake but it certainly doesn’t sound as if disrespect was some kind of a driving force behind it.

whatcat on February 28, 2012 at 5:30 PM

Ditto.

KOOLAID2 on February 28, 2012 at 5:57 PM

Sorry, but I fail to see what is “disgraceful” here.

JannyMae on February 28, 2012 at 5:58 PM

While I certainly don’t agree with the idea of putting them in a landfill, I think most people don’t realize what does happen at a cremation.
I know that what is left of an entire body after cremation is very small, usually less than 6 pounds. What is left of the cremated body is some bone fragments which are run through a pulverizer to grind them to ash, the rest has gone up in heat/smoke/vapor into the air. I would assume this was done at the first cremation and then they did the second incineration.
I know people who do cremations and they will admit they can’t guarantee all the remains make it to the funeral because of the size of the particles, and that most likely a very small part of someone’s remains are left in the crematory. But they do the best they can. If they do find anything such as missed metal from a ring they may bury these mixed remains in a cemetery. When the lining bricks are replaced periodically in the crematory though I wonder what is done with those?

Deanna on February 28, 2012 at 5:59 PM

Can we riot? I wanna riot.
Deafdog on February 28, 2012 at 5:01 PM

Who doesn’t?

But no. Turns out that these were only human bodies. So, no. It treating them with disrespect doesn’t meet the media standard for justifying murderous rampages.

logis on February 28, 2012 at 6:14 PM

For weeks after the attacks, workers were combing through the Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island, where the material cleared from Ground Zero was taken, for human remains. They found a lot of them, but many remains are probably still there. This story isn’t good news, but what’s really important is the heinous actions that led to the deaths of these people and stopping those who would love to hit us like that again.

Waggoner on February 28, 2012 at 6:28 PM

In many years to come they will still find bits of bone in many hidden places in NYC that people did not think could have had things in.

At least they got all who died in Iraq back and identified with no forever MIA. They can’t say that about Vietnam.

tjexcite on February 28, 2012 at 6:32 PM

I am all for treating the human remains with respect. But as I have read on Dear Abby many times, funerals (and by extention, the respectful treatment of remains) are for the living. Yes, lets show respect for the dead. Yes, lets spend money to bring our dead soldiers home and bury them with honor. But lets not overblow it either, Tina. My life is sacred. My soul is sacred. But I won’t complain if my remains end up a pile of ash in a landfill. I’ll have better things to be doing in the Afterlife.

Scopper on February 28, 2012 at 6:38 PM

The mistakes made were unintentional.

The remains were cremated. I assume this means handled with dignity, although the artical doen’t say. Not sure how I feel about this. I think there may be more details we are not privy to.

Just so you know. The remains of my brother,a 6′ white male of east european Jewish heritage were misidentified as a female hispanic, were sent to the county incinerator with the days road kill. We found out 12 years later. His killer walks among us.

It’s OK though. It was unintentional.

AlexJ on February 28, 2012 at 6:49 PM

The Somerset County Coroner denies claims made in the report:

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/12059/1213205-455.stm

“Mr. Miller oversaw the retrieval, identification, storage and return of all human remains from the Flight 93 crash site in Stonycreek Township near Shanksville on Sept. 11, 2001. All identified remains of passengers and crew were returned to the families, he said, and those that could not be identified were put in three caskets and buried on Sept. 12, 2011 at the Flight 93 National Memorial.”

cmsciulli on February 28, 2012 at 8:14 PM

I’m much more concerned that we may soon be providing air cover for Al Queda (or however you spell the name of that latent homosexual death cult) then whether or not a tiny bit of my cousin may have ended up in a landfill.

We are bigger than this people. Let the muslims piss and moan about imagined slights to their delicate sensibilities. A huge effort was made to provide dignity to the remains of these people.

Wine_N_Dine on February 28, 2012 at 10:25 PM

It is unfortunate but I will place the blame on the dirty effing muzzos and their death cult

So I have no problem with aggrieved families burning down a mosk or two, maybe massacring a few

Judging by the actions of the muzzos worldwide they should have no problem with this since it is retaliation for murder which is worse than burning a porno

Sonosam on February 29, 2012 at 1:49 AM

They should allow the upset family members go to an AF base and launch a missile at a muzzo country of their choice

The apes sure are lucky that the most advanced don’t act like them

They would be extinct

Sonosam on February 29, 2012 at 1:56 AM

Everything posted at ho[t]air, save for humping robots, has an agenda.

keep the change on February 28, 2012 at 5:15 PM

And you don’t have an agenda?

zoyclem on February 29, 2012 at 7:22 AM

So what……

roux on February 29, 2012 at 10:30 AM