By: Michael Werner, Esq.
On February 29th, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz told reporters that, “as best we can tell,” the only September 11th remains incinerated by the Department of Defense were those collected at the Pentagon crash site. Gen. Schwartz denied that remains from the Shanksville, P.A. site were included in the mortuary procedures criticized in the previously discussed February 28th report. Additionally, Gen. Schwartz shifted some of the blame away from the Air Force by implicating other top Pentagon officials, including then-under secretary of defense David S.C. Chu.
In response to mounting public pressure, the Pentagon released a statement affirming that “[w]e fully understand and want to address the questions families might have about the previous disposition policy that ended in 2008.” The Pentagon has since taken it upon itself to investigate the records and provide complete information to the victims’ families within the next few weeks.
The remains of other unidentified Pentagon victims have been buried at Arlington National Cemetery and were not subject to the disposal procedures employed at Dover mortuary. The basis used to determine the final destination of particular unidentifiable remains is unclear at this time. That said, not all September 11th families hold animus towards Dover mortuary. Debra Burlingame, the sister of a pilot on United Flight 77, supported Dover’s handling of remains, stating during a February 29th telephone interview: “These people were excruciatingly sensitive. They knew we wanted to find our loved ones; they knew we wanted to identify them. I just hate to see 10 years later an injustice done to them when they really gave their utmost to do the right thing for us.”
It is important to note that all remains identified as belonging to the hijackers were sent to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.