Memorial Park Arson: Drunk Out-Of-Towner Sets Fire To Sacred WTC Area

NY Daily News - November 01, 2009

by Brendan Brosh

An arsonist set fire on Saturday to a chapel where the remains of unidentified victims of Sept. 11 are stored, city officials said.

None of the thousands of remains was damaged but virtually all the mementos - pictures, notes and flowers - left by loved ones at Memorial Park were either stolen or damaged in the fire, according to the mayor's office.

Mayor Bloomberg said that fire officials determined the blaze was intentionally set and the chapel on E. 30th St. and the FDR Drive would be treated as a crime scene.

"Anyone who would set fire to the inviolable Memorial Park chapel is craven and contemptible," said Bloomberg in a press release. Relatives "who visit the Memorial Park chapel and have already gone through such enormous loss have my sympathy."

Brian Schroeder, 26, was arrested last night. Schroeder, who may have been from out of town, was apparently drunk when he started the fire, a source said.

Relatives who lost loved ones in the terrorist attack called it a "hateful act."

"For family members this brings it right back up - immediately and full force," said Charles Wolf, whose wife, Katherine, worked in tower one and was never identified. "It cuts right inside."

A break-in was discovered in the chapel at about 8 a.m. and a fire was later started, wrote Nazli Parvizi, commissioner of the mayor's community affairs unit, in an e-mail to Sept. 11 families.

"We are unclear as to whether or not the mementos were stolen or burnt but little remains inside the chapel," she said. "The chapel itself remains largely intact."

The chapel will be repaired by the city, the mayor's office said.

The tented building is a temporary resting place for the remains until they are moved to a permanent memorial at Ground Zero.

"Even though eight years have passed we still have to respect mementos and memorials," said Wolf. "There's never absolute closure, especially for those of us who have never gotten any remains back."