Funeral Planned for Last WTC Firefighter

NEW YORK (AP) -- A vial of blood is all that will be buried at firefighter Michael Ragusa's funeral next week, nearly two years after he was killed in the World Trade Center attack.

The 29-year-old will be the last of the 343 firefighter victims to be memorialized in an official service. His family had hoped his remains would be identified, but his mother, Dee Ragusa, said Sunday that they decided they had waited long enough.

``We always knew in our hearts when it would be the right time, when we would say, 'enough,''' she said.

Of the 2,792 people who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center, the medical examiner has identified remains of just over half. Scientists expect to exhaust all available DNA technology in the attempt to identify the rest as early as next year, although unidentified remains will be stored in case new methods are developed.

Many families held memorial services before any remains were identified, but Ragusa's family delayed an official ceremony. His parents decided to hold a funeral after the July wedding of their younger son.

``We got him happily married, and now it was time to take care of Michael,'' Dee Ragusa said.

Instead of the firefighter's remains, his family will bury a vial of blood he had donated to a bone marrow center. The vial will be interred at a cemetery on Staten Island after the funeral Sept. 8.

Dee Ragusa said that if she could not have her son's intact body to bury, she was glad to have the vial of blood. ``I'd much rather have a bottle of blood that flowed through him while he was alive than parts of his body,'' she said.