NEW YORK (AP) – Mary Jane Waring has waited for five years for someone to find her brother, so she can bury a small part of what she lost on Sept. 11, 2001.

But since workers began discovering hundreds of bones in long-buried places at ground zero, she has become afraid of the emotions that could be unearthed with them.

“If they do find something, it would be very upsetting for everybody,” said Waring, whose brother, James Waring, died in the top floors of the World Trade Center’s north tower. “What would it be? Would it be his finger? Would it be his leg?”

The hope for the return of remains to families of the 2,749 people who died at the trade center – more than 40 percent who have never been identified – has grown in recent weeks, as the renewed search for remains continues and forensic experts say that advances in DNA technology could lead to new identifications for many victims.

Some family members who never received any remains are uncertain about what they want to find. Others, who have already buried what remains were found, are faced with the possibility of another funeral or burial.

“I’ll tell you the truth, I couldn’t go through exhuming his body again,” said Bruce De Cell, whose son-in-law, Mark Petrocelli, was killed in the north tower. The family has received remains five times and buried him twice, the last time in 2003. “As far as I’m concerned, I hope I don’t hear any more.”

The fact that the city is still searching for unidentified body parts five years later is a rare thing for disasters. For example, all the 230 victims of TWA Flight 800, which crashed into the ocean in 1996, and the 168 Oklahoma City bombing victims were identified.

While Hurricane Katrina killed more than 1,300 people in Louisiana, about 30 bodies remain unidentified. Frank Minyard, the Orleans Parish coroner, says he has not received calls from many families who don’t know their loved ones’ fate. He suspects many of the unidentified victims may not have had close family who knew their whereabouts.

The city medical examiner’s office has stored more than 9,000 unidentified remains that were recovered after the terrorist attacks at the trade center, but couldn’t be matched to victims. Nearly 1,000 remains were added to those in the past year after renewed searches on the roof of a skyscraper near the destroyed towers, and then in recent weeks in abandoned manholes on the western edge of the site. City officials plan a yearlong search for remains that haven’t yet been found in and around ground zero.

The most recent finds are in good condition, and forensic experts told family members this fall that improved technology for finding DNA could yield to many new identifications.

“We try to match whatever DNA profiles that we manage to create to whatever DNA profiles that were in our database,” said Ellen Borakove, spokeswoman for the city medical examiner’s office. “We’re waiting on them anxiously.”

In September, Joan Greener received word for the first time that her niece, Karen Martin, was positively identified – news that brought back all sorts of emotions.

“It was like a knife in your chest again,” said Greener, of Salem, Mass. “You spent a couple of days bawling your eyes out and feeling that pain again. But then you thought, you know, this is a good thing.”

Greener’s family had buried dust from ground zero in 2001 to remember Martin, 40, of Danvers, Mass., a flight attendant on the first hijacked jet to crash into the trade center. Since then, Greener’s daughter, also 40, has died, of a heart attack. She is buried in a memorial rock garden at a New Hampshire camp named after Martin, and Greener said Martin’s remains will be put there as well.

“We know we can bring her to a resting spot that she would love to be at,” said Greener.

In New York, Sept. 11 families have sued the city to create a memorial from material in a landfill where they say remains exist. They want a wider, federally led search for their loved ones than the city is planning.

For Nancy Mee, who lost her firefighter brother on Sept. 11, finding all that can be found of their loved ones is crucial, especially because of where they’re being found now.

“If there’s a piece of my brother laying on the street or laying on a rooftop somewhere, that’s not acceptable to me,” said Mee, whose family has received some remains of her brother, Firefighter George Cain. “People deserve to be put someplace sacred, not just cast about.”

Bob O’Mahony prefers not to think about finding his brother, Matt O’Mahony, after five years. He worked on the top floors of the north tower at the Cantor Fitzgerald bond brokerage, and “my vision is that he went to sleep. After that, it didn’t really matter.”

He fears how that story may change, depending on where and how he is found.

“You’re talking about slivers of bones and fragments and DNA. What does that really mean?” O’Mahony said. “The phone call comes in, it opens up a Pandora’s box. A hard scab has already been formed. Do you really want to open it?”


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