The unprecedented disaster in New York City is causing officials to take unprecedented measures in accounting for its victims.
Normally, there must be a body before a death certificate can be issued. But with more than 6,000 people still missing at the Trade Center site and with the possibility that many of the bodies may never be recovered, authorities are changing the rules.
Starting Wednesday, the next-of-kin of the victims will be able to receive death certificates. The documents are necessary to collect life insurance payments and other survivor benefits.
But New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani says the process is strictly voluntary. "I know this is a very painful and very difficult process," the mayor said. "Again, I emphasize that this is up to the families to decide if this is the step they want to take at this time. It does recognize the fact that we are now two weeks into this terrible attack happening and also, two weeks into the rescue effort." And he noted that there have been no survivors found since the day after the attack, two weeks ago.
On a positive note, Mr. Giuliani said that New York's crime rate has plunged since the terrorist attack. Last week, he said, reported crime in the city was at its lowest level in 40 years.