NEW YORK -- One family is planting flowers in a cemetery where their loved one's remains will never be interred.
Some mourners, knowing they will never get a body, ask for a memento of ash or rubble from the wreckage of the World Trade Center. Others display photos at memorial services instead of caskets.
With more than 5,200 people missing in the wake of the trade center attack, many of them literally gone without a trace, customary mourning rituals have been disrupted.
Families are coming up with their own ways to say goodbye, mourn and remember.
"My youngest sister was crying, saying how are we going to remember mom and dad? She kept saying we have to wait for a body," said Pamela Trentini, whose parents perished aboard one of the planes that struck the trade center. "She really wanted something tangible. I said there would probably be no remains."
So the children of James and Mary Trentini, a retired couple from Everett, Mass., made up new rituals. Seeds of forget-me-nots, Mary Trentini's favorite flower, were handed out at a memorial service, to be planted in a cemetery. A headstone was ordered, and the family plans to plant tulip bulbs in the graveyard before the frost this fall.
"It will be a place we can go to and remember, even though there are no remains," Trentini said.
Mayor Rudolph Giuliani has said that "given the nature of this implosion and the temperatures," identifiable remains would not be found for all victims.
Gordy Dodge, an American Red Cross psychologist who has been counseling families in New York, said some "are asking for ashes from the scene. It serves the normal emotional process they need, by symbolically giving them something to bury."
For now, all debris is taken to a Staten Island landfill and inspected for human remains or evidence, like airplane parts. But Giuliani pledged this week that any family wanting a memento would eventually get something.
Normally it takes three years to certify a death without physical remains, but officials have streamlined the procedure to reduce it to a few days. A death certificate allows families to receive insurance money and other benefits, but it may also give some the evidence they need to move on emotionally.
Judy Keane of Wethersfield, Conn., whose husband, Richard, is among the missing, said she would wait for a notice from the medical examiner before planning a memorial service.
"I keep the thought in the back of my head that he might pop up -- who knows," she said. "I really don't feel comfortable until we have something legal saying that he's gone."
Keane said a local vigil by friends and neighbors "brought me the same type of comfort that a memorial service would. It was across from our home on the town green. It was very consoling and beautiful."
Her husband -- a father and grandfather, an active Roman Catholic in his parish church, and a senior vice president with Marsh Inc., a financial services company -- didn't work at the twin towers but was attending a meeting there when the plane hit.
"They didn't even think he was going to be there," said the Rev. Thomas Campion, a family adviser. "But that's where he was. He was never late for anything."
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