MANHATTAN (CN) – Finding that “not every wrong can be addressed through the judicial process,” a federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit in which WTC Families For A Proper Burial demanded that the City of New York “reclaim the finely sifted residue of the World Trade Center debris at the City’s Fresh Kills landfill in Staten Island, move it to a more suitable location, and create a cemetery for the 1,100 who perished without identifiable remains.”
U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein found that of the 2,749 people who died in the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, 2001, “full bodies were recovered for only 292 victims, and partial remains were found for another 1,357 victims – sometimes a fragment of bone or a possession, sometimes more.”
“City workers and contractors have inspected every bit of debris and, using sophisticated equipment, sifted the particles of debris to the extent of one-quarter inch of diameter, the space between the concentric circles of a small paper clip, with not further success. All human remains that could be identified, were identified. Only dust remains.
“Plaintiffs brought this lawsuit to force the City to reclaim the finely sifted residue of the World Trade Center debris at the City’s Fresh Kills landfill in Staten Island, move it to a more suitable location, and create a cemetery for the 1,100 who perished without identifiable remains. If no identifiable remains can be detected, plaintiffs argue, the ground itself has become hallowed. Plaintiffs allege that the City’s failures violate their Constitutional rights to bury their deceased sons and daughters and next of kin and that this lawsuit can bring redress.
“The City denies that plaintiffs have constitutional rights to vindicate, or standing to sue, or that the City violated and constitutional or statutory rights or obligations. There are no remains to bury, the City argues, and plaintiffs have rejected the City’s offers to create a memorial. The City moves to dismiss the case.
“As the presiding judge, I have made repeated efforts to bring the parties to an amicable solution, without success. The City has offered a memorial, but the plaintiffs insist on a cemetery. Further postponement of the issues raised by this lawsuit will not benefit anyone.”
In his 23-page ruling, Judge Hellerstein concluded, “The events of September 11, 2001 will never be forgotten. No one knows the truth of these words more than those individuals who lost their loved ones to the attacks. In a very real sense, those individuals have suffered a wrong for which there can be no remedy. No matter the authority of power of this Court, it cannot bring back the loved ones lost, and it cannot bring peace to the plaintiffs or surcease to society’s collective grief around the events of September 11, 2001.
“Not every wrong can be addressed through the judicial process. The grave harm suffered by the plaintiffs in this case is undeniable. But the jurisdiction of a court is limited. Here, my duty under law is to determine whether plaintiffs have stated a legally sufficient claim of violation of the United States Constitution and of New York State Law. For the reasons discussed in this opinion, I hold that plaintiffs have not stated, and cannot state, legally sufficient claims, and I dismiss plaintiffs’ amended complaint.
“The City has a plan for a beautiful nature preserve and park at the Fresh Kills site. There is room for a memorial on a height with a view of there the Twin Towers stood. The energy applied to this lawsuit might well be transferred to participating in the planning of the park and memorial. What better reverence could there be than a memorial that both recalls those who died, even without leaving a trace, and points to the tenacity and beauty of life that must go on. The terrorists sought to destroy our lives and our freedom. They failed, and a memorial in such a beautiful setting can symbolize the vital continuation of our vibrant democracy.
“The Clerk shall mark the case closed, but the Court will remain open to assist the parties in working towards a suitable solution.”