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9/11 Victims Tally Continues to Grow As DNA Technology Identifies Man After 16 Years

The 9/11 attacks are recognized among the deadliest terrorist attacks on United States.

9/11 terrorist attacks are among the deadliest terrorist strikes on US
Visitors scroll through names of victims of the deadly 9/11 attacks at the National September 11 Memorial on Sep 11, 2015. VOA

New York, August 8, 2017: The remains of a man killed in the terrorist attack on New York’s World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, have been identified nearly 16 years after the deadly attacks.

The city medical examiners’ office announced the finding Monday, but is withholding the man’s name at the request of his family.

It is the first new identification made since March 2015.

Remains of 1,641 victims have been identified. That means 40 percent of those who died that day have yet to have any remains identified.

New, more sensitive DNA technology was deployed earlier this year and helped make the latest identification after earlier testing produced no results, the medical examiner’s office said.

Nearly 22,000 human samples recovered from Ground Zero have been tested and retested since 2001 in an effort to return the remains to the families.

The 9/11 airliner attacks killed a total of nearly 3,000 people in New York, at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. (VOA)

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As Hate Crime Rises, Muslims are Looked down upon as ‘Most disdained’ Minority in USA

With about 3.3 million people, Muslims represent roughly 1 percent of the U.S. population, but attacks on Muslims accounted for 4.5 percent of all hate crimes in 2015

Hate Crime
A young woman waves an American flag in a Muslim conference against terror and hate at the Curtis Culwell Center, Jan. 17, 2015, in Garland, Texas. VOA
  • Rise in hate crime leads to the Muslims in America to be seen as the most disdained minority in the country
  • Even though the Muslim community represents roughly 1 percent of the whole population in the US, hate crimes of last year account for about 4.5 percent to the Muslims
  • Terror attacks can increase violence against the Muslims but political rhetoric can be a reason to both triggering and keeping it in check

Sept 22, 2016: New survey proves that anti-Muslim hate crime in the United States in the last year abruptly raised to levels not seen before since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, making Muslims the “most disdained” religious minority group in the whole country.

Official police reports from 20 states compiled by California State University at San Bernardino’s Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism show there were 196 anti-Muslim crimes in 2015, up from 110 incidents in 2014, an increase of 78 percent. The crimes in 2015 ranged from assault to murder to arson.

Hate crime directed at Arabs jumped by an even higher 219 percent.

Overall, hate crime in the United States rose by just 5 percent, from 4,139 incidents in 2014 to 4,347 in 2015. And while there were more anti-Jewish and anti-LGBT hate crimes, the increases in those categories were much smaller, according to the study.

Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, who led the study, said the spike in anti-Muslim violence was fueled by a combination of prejudice, terrorism and political vitriol.

“Not only do we see wide swaths of anti-Muslim prejudice … but now Muslims are the most disdained major group in the United States and we have a socio-political movement that reinforces and amplifies it,” Levin said in an interview, referring to the anti-Muslim rhetoric by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and other American politicians.

With about 3.3 million people, Muslims represent roughly 1 percent of the U.S. population, but attacks on Muslims accounted for 4.5 percent of all hate crimes in 2015, Levin noted.

With the exception of 2015, hate crimes have trended down in recent years; yet even then, “the proportion of Muslim targets has gone up,” he added.

‘Tip of the iceberg’

Among the 20 states studied, several with large Muslim communities saw an increase in anti-Muslim violence, with New Jersey reporting a 250 percent rise, Texas registering a surge of 129 percent, California reporting a jump of 122 percent and Tennessee notching a 67 percent uptick.

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In California, the San Bernardino mass shooting by a Muslim couple in December led to a wave of anti-Muslim attacks. In Tennessee, shootings on two military installations in Chattanooga by a Muslim-American, along with a controversy surrounding mosque construction, touched off a crime spree aimed at Muslims.

Partial data provided by police departments show the upsurge in anti-Muslim hate crime has continued into this year.

Levin shared data from four jurisdictions, showing New York City with 21 anti-Muslim hate crimes this year through early September, up from 10 in 2014; Washington, D.C., with two compared to three in 2015; Ohio with 12 compared to 15 last year; and Delaware, which had not reported any anti-Muslim hate crimes in 2014 and 2015, with one this year.

“In each of those places, it looks like hate crimes have gone up,” Levin said. “Whether that will translate through the end of the year, we’ll see.”

Recent bombing attack

The California State University’s findings come as Saturday’s bombings in New York and New Jersey blamed on an Afghan-American have touched off fears of a violent public backlash against Muslim Americans.

But while terrorist attacks can stoke anti-Muslim hate crime, political rhetoric can be just as powerful in inciting violence against the community — or checking it, Levin said.

His team looked at two major political statements over the past 15 years: President George W. Bush’s call for tolerance shortly after the 9/11 attacks and Trump’s controversial announcement of a ban on Muslims entering the country.

While anti-Muslim violence soared after Sept. 11, Bush’s “Islam is Peace” speech at a Washington mosque led to a “precipitous decline” in attacks on Muslims, Levin said. By contrast, in the days after Trump’s Dec. 7, 2015, Muslim-ban speech, there was an 87 percent increase in anti-Muslim hate crime, he said.

“To put things in perspective, the average anti-Muslim hate crime per month for the preceding five years (before Trump’s speech) was 12.6,” he said.

Cases underestimated

Levin’s report is largely in line with other recent studies, but he and other experts were quick to note that hate crime studies vastly underestimate the problem.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics, for example, estimates the number of hate crime victims at between 200,000 and 300,000 a year, while a 2011 Pew Research survey showed that 6 percent of Muslim Americans had reported being threatened or harassed.

The study “may be the tip of the iceberg, but still it can tell you what’s underneath,” said James Nolan, a professor of sociology at West Virginia University and a former hate crime data analyst for the FBI.

The U.S. Department of Justice says it has aggressively prosecuted or provided support for state prosecutions of hate crimes targeting Muslims and other minority groups. However, only a fraction of these crimes get prosecuted as hate crimes, experts say.

That is because it is easier to prosecute a case based on bodily injury or property damage than to establish a religious motive.

“The idea of just recognising it and reporting it and naming it and calling it what it is an initial first step,” Nolan said. “But then from that, there should be more in terms of investigation, prosecution, prevention, all involving the government, the police and citizens, everyone.

“We should be talking about it more particularly at this time when we’re seeing a spike,” he said. (VOA)

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After 15 long years, the 9/11 memorial puts its last artifact to rest

Memories the wreckage of 9/11 hold are certain to not fade soon. Read about the 2,600 artifacts found in the rubble of WTC terror attack which are now relics

Pedestrians walk by artist Heath Satow's sculpture "Reflect," made with a damaged, rusted I-beam from the collapsed World Trade Center buildings, outside the Rosemead, California, city hall plaza. Source-VOA
  • Post 9/11 terror attack on World Trade Centre, The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey which owned the building, sent an architect to the site to find distinctive pieces from the wreckage
  • At JFK’s Hangar 17, where all the wreckage was kept, Officials were unable to decide on what should be done with so much material and then a judge ordered that the artifacts should be donated to whomever who promised to take care of them
  • Amy Passiak, who was working as an intern at New York’s 9/11 museum was called in, to catalog the artifacts and manage their distribution

Behind the barbed wire, the white minivan’s busted windows and crumpled roof hint at its story. But forklifted to this windblown spot on the John F. Kennedy International Airport tarmac, between a decommissioned 727 and an aircraft hangar, it’s doubtful passing drivers notice it at all.

In the long struggle with the searing memories of 9/11, though, the van’s solitary presence here marks a small but significant transition point.

Tons of wreckage – twisted steel beams weighing up to 40,000 pounds, chunks of concrete smelling of smoke, a crushed fire engine, a dust-covered airline slipper – were salvaged from the World Trade Center site for preservation in the weeks after the 2001 terrorist attacks. Now, 15 years later, this van, part of a government agency motor pool likely sheltered from the impact in the parking garage beneath the complex, is the very last artifact without a resting place.

When the van is claimed, as soon as a few weeks from now, it will fulfill a pledge that, to move beyond 9/11 without losing sight of it, New York would share relics of that terror, along with the tales of sacrifice and fear that come with them.

The decision by officials to give away pieces of Trade Center wreckage has been praised and criticized over the years. But its impact is undeniable.

More than 2,600 artifacts have gone to 1,585 fire and police departments, schools and museums, and other nonprofit organizations in every state and at least eight other countries. Each recipient has pledged to use them in memorials or exhibits honoring those killed on 9/11. While some have not followed through, the many that have meant it is now possible to touch a piece of September 11 during a Roman Catholic Mass in Port St. Lucie, Florida, while standing in the shadows of Colorado’s San Juan mountains, or in a park honoring animals in Meaford, Ontario.

“They are the relics of the destruction and they have the same power in the same way as medieval relics that have the power of the saints,” said Harriet Senie, a professor of art history at the City University of New York and author of “Memorials to Shattered Myths: Vietnam to 9/11.”

“History is a vague concept, but if you have this tangible object that was a part of this historical event, it makes it very difficult to deny and it also makes it possible to experience it in a very visceral way.”

In the days immediately after the attacks, it wasn’t at all clear what would happen to the wreckage of the Trade Center. It’s not as if anyone had confronted questions of that scale before. There was no certainty about exactly which artifacts, if any, should be saved.

The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, which owned the Trade Center, dispatched an architect to comb through the site and cull pieces that seemed distinctive. Investigators carted away others. Most of the wreckage from the site was scrapped or recycled. But the agency saved about half of 1 percent of the total.

It all had to go somewhere. That ended up being JFK’s Hangar 17, an 80,000-square-foot cavern of sheet metal left empty when tenant Tower Air went out of business in 2000.

Officials were uncertain what to do with so much material, given the emotions intertwined with it. A judge determined the artifacts were not evidentiary or personal and approved donations to those who promised to care for them. But where to begin?

“It was piles and piles, probably my height or higher, of steel beams,” says Amy Passiak, the archivist hired to catalog the artifacts and manage their distribution, recalling the first time she walked into the hangar in 2010. Passiak, a high school senior in Michigan at the time of the attacks, had been working as an intern at New York’s 9/11 museum but says she was still unprepared for the scene.

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“I remember going home that day and just being exhausted, just from being there a few hours, just being emotionally exhausted and not being able to comprehend the amount of work that was going to go into the process. It was like, maybe a year, maybe two years. And here I am, six years later.”

Passiak built a database of every item, cataloging its size and approximate weight, with descriptive notes. As word spread that the Port Authority was giving the material away, requests poured in. Through August, the Port Authority had distributed 2,629 artifacts.

Many went to fire departments, local governments and organizations in the New York area with direct ties to the first responders and workers who perished when the towers fell.

“When those buildings came down, everybody and everything in its path was either pulverized or vaporized off the face of the earth,” said John Hodge of the Stephen Siller Tunnels to Towers Foundation, named for his cousin, a New York firefighter killed on 9/11. In late July, the foundation marked the looming closure of Hangar 17 with a ceremony outside before hauling away an elevator motor from the Trade Center, a piece of the parking structure, and a portion of a broadcast antenna that crowned the complex.

“That’s where the DNA is. Neither my cousin or anybody else from Squad 1 was ever found, but it’s in that steel,” Hodge said.

But for many of the people and groups that adopted artifacts from the Trade Center, the loss was more abstract. At least it started off that way.

Heath Satow, a sculptor in southern California hired to design a 9/11 memorial for the plaza fronting Rosemead’s city offices, recalls awkwardly scanning a digital catalog showing beams available from the Trade Center. But hundreds of hours creating the memorial – a 10-foot beam cradled by hands of chrome, the palms and fingers formed from 2,976 interlocking birds representing individual victims – left a deep impression.

“Every individual was attended to,” said Satow, his voice breaking five years later, as he described making the sculpture. “I just was totally unprepared for it. But when you spend all that time seeing it as individuals it will just wreck you.”

Satow said he purposely positioned the beam at about eye level, so people could see, touch and feel it. Others who adopted Trade Center artifacts used them to similar effect.

Firefighters in Pagosa Springs, Colorado, created a memorial in front of their station around a small piece of donated I-beam. Many people in the town, surrounded by the San Juan mountains and the Southern Ute Reservation, will never get to New York or Washington D.C., said David Hartman, who worked to obtain the artifact. But September 11 was his generation’s Pearl Harbor, and being able to see and touch the wreckage enables residents to reflect on its lessons, he said.

At Flour Bluff Junior High School in Corpus Christi, Texas, a piece of Trade Center steel is housed in a case near the entrance to the cafeteria. In September, it is taken out and cadets from the school’s Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps program stand guard. Bruce Chaney, the naval science instructor who applied for the artifacts, brings another, smaller piece to his classes.

The artifact is “twisted and somewhat burned. It’s not pretty. I’m hoping it will make them think as they’re growing up, that they have to pay attention to their past,” Chaney said.

Most of Chaney’s students hadn’t yet been born in 2001, so the relics are the closest most will ever get to experiencing that day.

But the desire to touch and own history, however distant, has been around since long before this generation, said Erika Doss, a professor of American studies at the University of Notre Dame and author of “Memorial Mania: Public Feeling in America.”

She notes that after Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, millions of Americans gathered alongside the tracks as a train carrying his body made its way to Illinois. People wore mourning bands on their arms. They hung Lincoln’s portrait in their homes. They flocked to see death masks cast from his face. They wanted to see and touch Lincoln.

Artifacts let people grapple with pained memories. But 15 years after September 11, the dispersal of artifacts from the Trade Center has not resolved the public’s conflicted feelings about those events, now set against continued fears of terrorism.

“We just don’t know where the events of 9/11 have led us,” said Rick Sluder, fire chief in Wauseon, Ohio, which obtained a Trade Center beam and, together with neighboring departments built a memorial at the nearby Fulton County Fairgrounds.

“A lot of people are looking at this as, is this the point of downfall or the point at which we rose above the rest, the point of resiliency?” Sluder said. “I don’t think that’s been determined yet.”

There’s little questioning, though, the emotions people invest in the artifacts. During the six years Passiak spent archiving the relics, the people seeking them would often tell her stories of the losses in their own communities _ of firefighters, or soldiers or others – that connected them, however tangentially, to 9/11.

In the first years, there were so many artifacts that she could easily match them with requesters. So when a girl at Cracker Trail Elementary School in Sebring, Florida, wrote that she wanted to help her fellow students learn about 9/11, Passiak set aside a children’s alarm clock recovered from a store in the Trade Center’s concourse, a burned notebook, and a small piece of steel, 6 inches square.

“I felt like that allowed a full story to be told,” she said.

As the piles of material winnowed, though, it became more difficult. Most of the groups seeking artifacts wanted pieces they could build a narrative around. The biggest artifacts were unwieldy. By early this year, there was little left except for rails from the commuter train line that ran under the complex. Items like police cruisers, whose purpose that day was clear, found takers. But unmarked vehicles, anonymous but for their place in the wreckage, were initially passed over.

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When the Port Authority shuttered the artifact program in August and padlocked Hangar 17, officials moved the only remaining artifact – a Dodge Caravan with a ripped out red interior – to the tarmac, uncertain of its fate. It, too, is likely to go soon, to group officials will not identify until its application has been approved. Hangar 17, itself, may eventually be torn down.

Passiak moved back to Michigan to start a job at an art museum this month. But many of the people whose groups received donations of Trade Center artifacts have stayed in touch with her, extending invitations to visit their memorials, from California to Germany.

Some day, the archivist said, she’d like to take a road trip, stopping in cities and towns along the way to see where the artifacts she once cared for have found homes. She imagines she’ll recognize some of them, and remember their stories. It will not matter that the steel, concrete, and other relics are at rest far from lower Manhattan. The memories they hold, she is certain, will not soon fade. (VOA)

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Remembering September 11th attacks in New York City, 15 years later

Commemorating the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, hundreds gathered in lower Manhattan

11 September 2001 Picture credits: WIKIPEDIA COMMONS
  • September 11, 2001, was the deadliest day in history for New York City firefighters: 343 were killed 
  • Structural steel of the skyscraper, built to withstand winds in excess of 200 miles per hour and a large conventional fire, could not withstand the tremendous heat generated by the burning jet fuel
  • Osama Bin Laden was the mastermind behind the September 11th attacks

September 12, 2016: Hundreds gathered in lower Manhattan Sunday morning to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, and to honor thousands of people who lost their lives. Al-Qaida terrorists hijacked four planes and flew them into the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon near Washington, while one crashed in rural Pennsylvania.

Paying tribute to the victims. Picture Credits: VOA

The ceremony began at 8:40 a.m. at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum with the national anthem and a reading of names of those killed in both the 2001 and 1993 attacks on the World Trade Center. Attended by the families of those killed in those attacks, elected officials, first responders and others, the event includes six moments of silence, timed to commemorate significant moments on Sept. 11, 2001.

President Barack Obama observed a moment of silence at the White House on Sunday. “We remember and we will never forget the nearly 3,000 beautiful lives taken from us so cruelly,” Obama said. “We wonder how their lives might have unfolded, how their dreams might have taken shape.”

He vowed that terrorists “will never be able to defeat a nation as great and as strong as America,” praising the country’s diverse ethnic population comprised of people of all races and religions as “one of our greatest strengths.”

Graffiti by an artist. Picture Credits: Wikimedia common
Graffiti by an artist. Picture Credits: Wikimedia common

Obama, commemorating the September 11, 2001 attacks for the last time as president before leaving office in January, said, “This is the America that was attacked that September morning. This is the America that we must remain true to.”

“Fifteen years ago, a September day that began like any other became one of the darkest in our nation’s history,” Obama said Saturday in his weekly address.

The president said those killed were “from all walks of life, all races and religions, all colors and creeds, from across America and around the world.” It was the worst attack on U.S. soil since Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1941 at the start of World War II.

People read the names of the victims during a commemoration ceremony for the victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in New York City. The country’s leading 2016 presidential candidates, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump, paid their respects at Ground Zero but halted their political campaigns for the day.

As daylight ended Sunday in New York, spotlights projected two giant beams of light into the sky to represent the fallen twin towers of the World Trade Center.

Nineteen hijackers, 15 of them from Saudi Arabia, were killed in the attacks, which led directly to the U.S. war in Afghanistan, where al-Qaida trained attackers against the United States, and indirectly to the war in Iraq. The U.S. still has thousands of forces in Afghanistan and Iraq even as it has ended large-scale combat operations.

Writing on Twitter Sunday, Secretary of State John Kerry said, “On 9/11, we remember those we lost, those who tried to save them. We honor them by pursuing peace, security, justice worldwide.”Near Shanksville in western Pennsylvania Sunday, the Flight 93 National Memorial stands in memory of the passengers and crew members who carried out a sustained assault against the hijackers for control of the plane 15 years ago.

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A September 11 Museum has been erected on the New York site where the World Trade Center once stood, housing artifacts and photographs connected to the attack.

At the Pentagon, the 184 people who died on September 11, 2001 are honored with 184 benches over pools of water. A huge American flag was draped from the roof of the headquarters of the country’s Defense Department on the side of the building where the attack occurred.

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Before the ceremony began, hundreds gathered around the plaza, many holding posters and shirts dedicated to victims. As the Brooklyn Youth Chorus sang the national anthem, many in the crowd held up posters and framed pictures before loudly applauding. (VOA)