Shocking WTC find
Con Ed crew unearths remains, wallets in Pit
BY ALISON GENDAR, RICH SCHAPIRO, GREG B. SMITH AND CORKY SIEMASZKO
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS
NYPD medical examiners and Con Edison workers examine rubble at a Con Edison on 29th Street and West Street that was found at Ground Zero. Construction workers tearing up a temporary roadway at Ground Zero yesterday made an astounding discovery - at least a dozen human remains and two wallets belonging to 9/11 victims.
The area at the northwest edge of the disaster site was supposed to have been searched long ago - and the Fire Department, which had supervised the vast recovery operation, could offer no explanation yesterday.
Even more stunned by the discovery of the remains - including large, partially intact arms and legs - were victims' relatives, who consider the land where the twin towers once stood sacred ground.
As workers in hazardous-material suits examined the bones last night at a Con Ed station a mile from Ground Zero, Charles Wolf rushed to the unsettling scene - hoping that the remains of his 40-year-old wife, Katherine, had been found.
"We've got family members here who are aching inside because of this and they can't believe that after all the promises that were made, we're still finding things," said Wolf, 52.
The wallets belonged to victims whose remains already had been identified, sources said.
Five years after 2,749 people were killed in the attacks, the remains of about 1,150 victims still have not been identified.
The grisly find was made just below street level yesterday morning, behind where a podium is set up on Sept. 11 anniversaries to allow victims' families to read the names of the lost.
The area also had been used as a temporary road carved out of the rubble along West St. while The Pit was smoldering, so cranes could access the site.
Con Ed utility workers began ripping up the asphalt Wednesday to excavate a manhole and feeder cable that have sat dormant since 9/11. The crew pumped dirt out of the manhole and hauled it back to a Con Ed yard a mile away on W. 29th St.
It wasn't until 8:45 a.m. yesterday that workers found the human remains inside an underground junction box, a Port Authority spokesman said.
At least three body parts had not decomposed entirely. The workers took the remains to the W. 29th St. yard and then called the medical examiner.
Workers from the medical examiner's office quickly determined the remains were human. They gave no explanation why some body parts were intact.
Investigators sifted through the dirt that had been hauled to the Con Ed yard the day before. "They found some IDs; they found some personal effects," a Con Ed supervisor said.
Back at Ground Zero, workers filled a large container with debris, which investigators will comb through today. FDNY spokesman James Long said he couldn't explain why the remains had not been found earlier.
The city temporarily halted its attempt to identify more victims' remains last year because all existing DNA technology had been used. But new hope arrived last month when the medical examiner announced that scientific advances had been made.
Vincent Ragusa, 65, whose firefighter son, Michael, has never been found, said yesterday's discovery "opens everything up all over again."
"Five years after the fact and they're still finding pieces of remains," Ragusa said. "It makes you take pause and ask, 'What the hell was the rush?' "
With Robert F. Moore
Originally published on October 20, 2006