On Sept. 13, 1971, New York State Police charged Attica State Prison, attempting to end a violent 4-day-old prisoner uprising. When the dust settled, 33 prisoners and 10 guards were dead in a horrific American-on-American clash that one prosecutor later likened to a "turkey shoot." Criminal charges and lawsuits have long since been settled, but as the New York Times reports, the state is only now, 43 years later, sorting through the morbid remnants of the riot—bloodied uniforms, sports equipment commandeered as weapons, badges, and personal belongings of both guards and inmates. And at last month's memorial, state corrections officials began returning them to the families.
"Those pieces of clothing, they’re not pristine, they’re dirty, bloodstained, ripped, have bullet holes in them—it’s not pretty stuff," says the daughter of the only guard killed by inmates. Some 2,000 items were found in a State Police barracks in 2010, adds the Democrat and Chronicle; the state has since indexed them and identified their rightful owners. One guard who recalls inmates beating him until "I passed out" was handed his No. 13 badge, its back side still bloody. For some families, the relics offer a chance at closure. Some will hold on to the mementos, others will donate them to museums. But the daughter of one hostage, a guard who was fatally shot in the back by police gunfire that day, has plans for the ill-fitting uniform he was forced to wear: "I want it destroyed," she says.