Search for Sept. 11 remains moves to church
NEW YORK – The search for the remains of Sept. 11 victims has moved across the street from the site of the World Trade Center to the lot of a destroyed church, where important relics, including the bones of three saints, may also be buried.Since October, more than 400 bones have been unearthed from the debris of a service road that construction trucks used to get in and out of the site after the 2001 attacks. The city, which oversaw the original cleanup of ground zero, is conducting a new search to find more remains of the 2,749 victims. Forty percent of the victims have not had remains identified.Last week, two bones were recovered in the place where St. Nicholas’ Greek Orthodox Church used to be, and where digging has begun for remains, said an official who knows about the search but is not authorized to speak publicly about it.Debris from both towers collapsed onto the church and its parking lot on Sept. 11, 2001. The site was paved over to be used a staging area for reconstruction at the site, making it a likely place to find long-buried debris and remains, those involved in the initial cleanup say.In the months after the attacks, some relics were returned to the St. Nicholas congregants, including a small bell and cross, several Bibles and even wax candles that had not melted from the heat of the attacks, said Peter Drakoulias, a church board member.But its most precious relic is still missing: a 600-pound, 2-foot-by-2-foot safe that contains church documents and a small enamel box containing three bone fragments less than a half-inch long, said Drakoulias. The bones are believed to be those of St. Nicholas – the church’s founding saint – St. Sava, and St. Katherine, he said.Drakoulias said the loss of the saints’ remains cannot compare to the loss of Sept. 11 victims who may be buried with them. “That said, perhaps there is some very small comfort to those families if they knew that their loved ones rested among such company,” he said.