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Monday, June 11, 2007
New Orleans' dead still not resting in peace
Last year on this blog, we told you about a warehouse in New Orleans down the street from the Superdome that housed the unidentified and unclaimed dead from Hurricane Katrina. At the time, there was no plan for the 101 bodies sitting in airtight coffins in the nondescript warehouse. Fifty were unidentified and 51 unclaimed by families too poor or otherwise unable to claim their relatives.

Bodies have come and gone since our last report, but today, 21 months after the levees broke, the warehouse still holds 100 bodies. Seventy of them are identified and 30 remain nameless.

The bodies are in the charge of Dr. Frank Minyard, the city's coroner. Minyard won't let anyone inside the warehouse because he says it would be undignified, but he did show us pictures of the inside. The caskets are wrapped in plastic and sit on a raised platform behind a chain link fence. He says the fence is there as an extra layer of security. Above each casket is a white plaque with a black number, one through 100. Minyard wouldn't give us the pictures to broadcast, but we got our own video from inside the warehouse.

Minyard is trying to raise $1.5 million to build a group of mausoleums for the bodies and a memorial in the swirling shape of a hurricane. But as the second anniversary approaches, it's unlikely those bodies will find a permanent resting place anytime soon. The coroner has raised $250,000 so far, and Charity Hospital has donated an old cemetery for the memorial. But Minyard says they won't be able to break ground until they raise another $150,000.

-- By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Producer
Posted By CNN: 9:13 PM ET
  22 Comments
Hey Eric,
That this is happening in a developed country is appaling. I know that those souls have gone to another place,hopefully a peaceful one, but just out of respect and dignity for their lives,who and what they have been once,the horrific way in wich they died, I hope they get a proper burial.
Good on you Dr.Minyard,for taking care of them meanwhile.

Joanne R.
Laval Quebec
Posted By Joanne R.Laval Quebec : 9:49 PM ET
I've heard alot of people calling the lack of help New Orleans got a racial thing. Maybe they're right-but after reading this post, I believe it a class issue as well. It's just deplorable.A proper burial-don't they deserve at least that?
Posted By Debbie, Denham Springs, LA : 9:58 PM ET
This is really sad! I saw a preview for the show tonight and saw the airtight coffins in the warehouse and it made me want to cry. It is so sad that 51 human beings were unclaimed after two years. I feel that no one is to poor to claim a family member. You should want the closure and satisfaction of knowing that your loved one is resting in peace.
Posted By Jessica, Bourbonnais Illinois : 10:00 PM ET
Eric:

Wow! $14,851 per person to bury someone in NOLA? This is insane.

What is inhumane and undignified is the fact that someone has not volunteered to give these folks a proper burial and just take care of things? Why would you hold bodies pending the fundraising of $1.5 million? This makes no sense to me. I don't get it. Maybe I am missing something here.

Where are the casket companies and head stone companies? They are making money in the funeral business. My husband worked next to a funeral home and every day the truck would arrive with the caskets in it. Funerals are big business and highly profitable.

Anderson, I hope you do a shout out tonight to a casket company and a headstone company in America to get to NOLA and give these folks the respect they deserve!

Thanks for staying on this government in NOLA. I think I heard Nagin was thinking about running for governor!??
Posted By Renee Bradenton, FL : 10:00 PM ET
Eric

Please post where donations can be sent and hopefully AC360 viewers can help with this. Everyone deserves a decent burial. Thanks for following up on this.
Posted By Annie Kate, Birmingham AL : 10:15 PM ET
If Bush can find millions to fund the Iraq War based on lies, one would think he could find 150,000 to bury his people in New Orleans.

Pathethic.
Posted By Gina M PEI Canada : 10:47 PM ET
Will CNN please provide the contact info to donate to Dr. Minyard's collection for the burials. Thank you.
Posted By Steve - Peoria, IL : 10:55 PM ET
I appreciate Dr. Minyard's passion to build a memorial for these victims but in all due respect, wouldn't it be less expensive to just cremate the bodies instead?

Storing bodies in a warehouse for 21 months is just as disrespectful. This story needs closure....Money for memorials can be pursued later.
Posted By Jolene, St. Joseph, MI : 11:15 PM ET
Thank you for pointing the finger where it really belongs.The progress you see around is actually the result of the will of the people from NO and fellow Americans.
As for your socialite. Maybe she really has a diagnosis of Major Depressive disorder which was diagnosed her pre-incarceration. These people often self medicate with alcohol, prescription drugs and/or street drugs.Also they may create a fascade to protect themselves."Playing Dumb" and alcohol could really be signs of a mental process which should really be addressed.
Posted By Lisa M. From Harvey,La. : 11:44 PM ET
This is really sad. So much for resting in peace. Doesn't the government have any plan to help bury those who can't afford to bury their loved ones?
Posted By Kathy Chicago,Il : 11:50 PM ET
Eric,

Do you have the address where people could send a donation?

Thanks, Barbara
Posted By Barbara, Los Angeles, CA : 12:35 AM ET
Hey Anderson,

Words can not express how much you and your team are appreciated by many for what you do…Thanks for keeping them honest…

Take Care

Tracy-Marie Anderson, Canada
Posted By Tracy-Marie Anderson, N.S. Canada : 2:21 AM ET
Is this for real? Dr. Minyard has the bodies, he has a cemetary, he has $250,000 USD (that will buy or rent a digger), yet he's waiting for -- huh? Those were people's loved ones. Where is Mayor Nagin in all of this? Didn't Nagin say he might want to run for president some day? What a resume he and Doc Graveyard could put together.
Posted By Gypsy, a jaw-dropped American in Mexico : 2:50 AM ET
I dont want to sound naive but I am wondering if these bodies have been identified? And if their families have been notified and know their loved ones are there?

This is utterly tragic! I don't understand either why they are waiting for funds? There must be vacant land somewhere near and someone who could donate coffins for a proper burial. Too Sad to think in this day and age something like this could actually be reality!
Posted By Tricia M PEI Canada : 8:55 AM ET
I appreciate this story being brought to life, however:

Minyard won't let anyone inside the warehouse because he says it would be undignified... [he] wouldn't give us the pictures to broadcast, but we got our own video from inside the warehouse.

Um, undignified, rude, crude, exploiting, HELLO.... Seriously. You should be ashamed of yourselves. I certianly am.
Posted By Sharla Dawn Jones, Stratford, New Jersey : 10:18 AM ET
I sent this last night to 360, but it didn't get posted so here is the url for the Katrina Memorial:


www.neworleanskatrinamemorial.org/
Posted By Marcia Warren, MI : 10:32 AM ET
I am with Jolene on this issue. It is disrespectful to keep these bodies on ice for so long. I am shocked when I saw the story. Take DNA samples, cremate the bodies, clearly identify and tie the DNA to the right set of ashes, put the ashes in nice urns and wait for the memorial to be built or loved ones to pick up the ashes. And yes, it is in my will that I want to be cremated so I am not suggesting that something be done to these bodies that I have not decided on for myself. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
Posted By Charlotte D, Stockton CA : 12:48 PM ET
Like Ms Jones above, I must agree, you are all high and mighty when it comes to the outrage done to the poor doctor, I wonder if you had the collective stones to tell him you would deliberately disobey him and paint him a fool

Shame in the name of selling papers, shame indeed
Posted By Ian J from Canada : 6:26 PM ET
I would like to thank GYPSY Mexico for his articulate comments and his clear and concise manner in summing this issue up. Really, no sarcasm here. I think he has a very good point and must commend him on being able to put it across, concisely, frankly, and also lend a bit of humour to a very dark and sad reality story.
Posted By TM Chtown PEI : 8:11 PM ET
Hi Eric,
It is absolutely appaling that these human beings have not been cremated or buried almost two years after katrina!
This is just sickening! I was so sure these hurricane victims already had their jazz send off.
What the hell are we doing sending our youth to other countries to die when we can't even handle our own disasters?
This United States,
Has become a disgrace,
At a very rapid pace,
To the whole human race,
We need a new leader face!
PATHETIC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Posted By Betty Ann, Nacogdoches,TX : 9:30 PM ET
You could cremate the bodies and it would be very cost effective or you could put the bodies in coffins and bury them in a pauper's grave in very short order.

What Dr. Minyard's plan would do is create a constant and profound reminder of what happened and the system that failed and the people we lost. I hope they will get their special place of rest. It will help remind all who see it of the cost of slow action and poor planning. It may also be a place of consolation for those who lost loved ones, found and not found, after the hurricane.
Posted By Tiffany, Providence RI : 3:45 PM ET
The state of Louisiana is suppose to have all this extra money. The lawmakers are trying to fund projects all over the state, some of which are organizations in which the foundeed in there districts.
They need to take this opportunity to show New Orleans they can get somthing right, and fund a memorial for the remaining deceased of Katrina.
These persons deserve a place of peace and rest like any other human being. They need to be graved and marked as the unknown deceased of Hurricane Katrina.
So let the lawmakers of Louisiana
focus their interest and apply the extra surplus to a very much need
cause. Let private organizations find their own members to create their funding needs. If they are such an asset to the community and the lawmakers district, let the community take care of them.
We have bought our own organizations back to the city with the help of our communities giving to their cause and need.
Thank You
Posted By Mike Uptown New Orleans, La : 7:39 PM ET
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