Tuesday, October 5, 2010

"NYC to Provide Urns to WTC Families," by Joel Stashenko, Associated Press Writer

October 3, 2001, Associated Press, "NYC to Provide Urns to WTC Families," by Joel Stashenko,


The mayor said the city settled on the idea after hearing reports that con men were peddling phony mementos from ground zero to family members.

``We are going to give the families soil from the World Trade Center,'' Giuliani said. ``We will provide every single family with an urn, made of beautiful wood.''

Also Tuesday, a court declared 41 of the missing victims legally dead, acting at the request of their families. All had worked for the Cantor Fitzgerald bond trading firm, which lost some 700 employees.

Once the health commissioner receives the court's report, he will issue the death certificates. The process of obtaining a death certificate for a missing person has been speeded up from a few years to a few days to help victims' families.

Officials have acknowledged that it could take months to recover and identify victims of the fiery disaster and that some of the dead may never be found. Giuliani said 1,202 families whose loved ones are still missing in the smoking ruins have applied for death certificates.

One of the major employers near the site, Merrill Lynch, plans to return to its offices at the World Financial Center on Oct. 22 _ another sign of the city's return to normalcy, the mayor said.

Earlier Tuesday, after nearly a week of bickering, the state and the city struck a deal to jointly oversee the distribution of the more than $600 million in contributions collected for victims and their families.

Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and Giuliani's administration had been at odds over which operation was best situated to oversee the fair distribution of donations and prevent fraud and double-dipping.

But the two ironed out their problems. ``There isn't any turf war,'' Giuliani said.

As the city-state discussions unfolded, the bodies of 15 firefighters were recovered from the 1.2 million tons of rubble, law enforcement sources said on condition of anonymity. Nearly 350 firefighters are believed to be among the victims.

The confirmed number of dead now stands at 363, including the bodies of 64 firefighters.

One of the survivors, a security broker caught in a fireball on the 83rd floor, left the hospital Tuesday _ the first victim released from the New York Weill Cornell Burn Center. Fourteen other victims remain there.

New York City easily sold $1 billion in bonds to meet cleanup needs and relief costs Tuesday. Officials said the bonds sold out in two hours and investors placed $4 billion worth of orders.

And an assortment of celebrities _ including native New Yorker Robert De Niro, TV host Regis Philbin and actress Sigourney Weaver _ joined Gov. George Pataki in encouraging tourists to come back to New York.

``It's going to be rebuilt, bigger and stronger than ever,'' said De Niro, whose restaurant sits several blocks from ground zero. ``It's going to be a monument to all the people who died there.''

The attorney general said his department has regulated charities in New York for more than a half-century and has expertise to make sure the Trade Center relief is fairly distributed.

But the Giuliani administration had argued that it was best equipped to take the prime oversight role because it had already been coordinating relief services since the Sept. 11 attack.

An estimated $675 million has been collected so far and Spitzer said the eventual total will probably be more than $1 billion. On Tuesday, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the emir of Qatar, donated $2 million.

It will be up to charities to distribute the aid on a case-by-case basis, not the government, Spitzer spokesman Scott Brown said.

``We're not going to dictate or tell these groups who to give their money to,'' Brown said. ``That's their mission. We want to make sure there is as little duplication and as little fraud as possible.''

City counsel Larry Levy said it is important that people are not allowed to take advantage of the charitable outpouring by, for instance, collecting burial expenses from more than one fund.

The money is flowing into various groups and funds, some existing before Sept. 11 and others set up immediately afterward. They include the state's World Trade Center Relief Fund, the Sept. 11 Fund, relief funds for the survivors of police officers and firefighters, and the American Red Cross.

Spitzer's office is assembling a list of 146 charities that will provide services to victims and their families.

Differences about oversight first arose last week after Spitzer proposed databases of charities and victims receiving aid. But the Red Cross objected that that would violate the privacy of people who receive help.

Levy said Tuesday that the mayor and Spitzer's office have agreed that charities will be allowed to shield certain sensitive information about the services they are providing people, such as psychological counseling.

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