FAMILIES of September 11, 2001 victims have called for congressional hearings to establish federal protocols on how to handle human remains after disasters like the terror attacks that took thousands of lives in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

At a news conference near the September 11 memorial, family members spoke days after Pentagon officials revealed that partial remains of several victims were incinerated by a military contractor and sent to a landfill.

The families said they oppose a plan to place unidentified human remains of the New York victims in an underground repository at bedrock they say “desecrates” the memory of their loved ones.

“Are our loved ones’ remains marketable?” asked Rosaleen Tallon, sister of firefighter Sean Tallon, who died in the 2001 attack.

“They’re using them to market trinkets.”

She held up a gift keychain inscribed with “No Day Shall Erase You From the Memory” – the same words that grace a memorial wall. The unidentified remains are to be placed behind it, sharing space with the National September 11 Memorial & Museum but administered separately.

Norman Siegel, the lawyer for 9/11 Parents & Families of Firefighters & WTC Victims – a group that has sued New York City over the plans – said they had sent out queries to families asking their opinion. He said they received 350 responses, of which 95 per cent expressed opposition to the repository.

“The 9/11 museum is not a graveyard,” Siegel said.

Seventeen family members have sued the city, demanding that officials ask relatives of victims what they would like done with the unidentified remains. The group lost, but is appealing.

Instead, group members would like to see the remains encased in a kind of “tomb of the unknown soldier” – above ground as part of the memorial.

The remains of more than 1,100 of the 2,753 victims killed at the World Trade Centre have not been identified. The remains are under the jurisdiction of the city’s chief medical examiner’s office, and even in a repository, they would be available for analysis in the future using any scientific advances.

The wall would separate the museum from the repository and the general public.

An adjacent room will be reserved for family members for visits by special private appointment, apart from the public.