Skip to comments.Forensic Identification of 9/11 Victims Ends (1,000 Victims Unidentified Due to Tech. Limits)
Posted on 02/23/2005 5:35:31 PM PST by Indy Pendance
NEW YORK, Feb. 23, 2005 Shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, authorities said they would continue searching until they could return to every family something of their lost relative.
But now, families of nearly half of the 2,749 who died in the attacks will soon receive letters from the New York City Medical Examiner's Office saying it has reached the limits of forensic science for now. At most, they say, only two or three more bodies are likely to be identified.
"I'm confident they did everything they could to do what they had to do with the DNA," said Monica Iken, who lost her husband Michael Iken, who worked on the 84th floor of Tower Two. "It's still that empty feeling that you have that unless you live it it's kind of hard to explain."
Remains of 57 percent of the victims were identified using DNA, dental records, or bits of jewelry. Families who received notification that their loved one's remains had been identified say it makes a difference.
"Instead of believing in the twilight zone is he dead, is he alive? is he dead, is he alive? we could move on," said Talat Dalani, whose 26-year-old son died in the towers. "There's a place he is buried. A sense of closure."
Over the past six months, working with the most damaged DNA samples, examiners have managed to identify only eight more people.
'Incredibly Difficult Task'
"The problem with the Trade Center is that when the pieces are that small, [they] can get mixed in with other debris from the actual building, and it creates an incredibly difficult task to separate things out," said Dr. George Bauries, a former FBI evidence response expert.
Many knew this day would come. After the attacks, experts predicted that the violence of the collapse and the intense heat of the fires meant that at most 25 percent of the victims would be identified.
The multiplicity of remains for each victim is also a reason why the medical examiner's office is fairly certain there is only hope for a few more identifications.
The fact that more than 50 percent of the victims have already been identified is remarkable, they say.
The letter to families will say that as forensic technology advances, more of the DNA samples may ultimately be identified.
For now, the unidentified remains nearly 10,000 samples will be placed in the soon-to-be-built memorial at Ground Zero. They will still be accessible, however, if scientists choose to examine them further.
But for families of nearly half of the victims, the memorial must now remain a final resting place.
ABC News' Bill Blakemore filed this report for "World News Tonight."
It still makes me sick to think that that many victims of this awful tragedy will never be found. Prayers for the families of all the victims of this cowardly act of islamist terrorism.
To my friend, Douglas MacMillan Cherry (4/2/63 - 9/11/2001) - may the Lord lift you up in peace.
We continue to pray for your soul and for the wife and three children who must carry on without you.
Thank you (from the bottom of my heart).
It's on my home page, with the FR real time threads if you want to copy them.
1010 WINS - New York's All News Station | 1010wins.com
1,161 WTC Victims Will Remain Unidentified
Feb 23, 2005 3:42 pm US/Eastern
Forensic scientists have concluded their effort to identify the remains of people killed in the Sept. 11 World Trade Center attack, leaving more than 1,100 unidentified victims whose families had slowly let their hope slip away.
The medical examiner's office matched the remains of nearly 1,600 victims in the 3 1/2 years since the 2001 attack, but the families are now being told that all DNA technology has been exhausted.
For most, it is a reality they learned to tolerate long ago.
They buried caskets with photographs and mementos instead of bodies. On holidays, they visit gravestones that mark nothing but a spot in the earth. For many, the trade center site in lower Manhattan, instead of a cemetery, is where they feel a connection to their loved ones' remains.
A year after the attack, the family of 57-year-old Ronald Fazio, who worked in the south tower, held a wake with a coffin full of keepsakes, knowing his remains might never be found but needing the ritual to move on.
Photos of the family dog, sand from the Jersey shore and Fazio's favorite treat, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, were then buried in a cemetery near the family's New Jersey home.
"It might seem like an artificial type of wake, but people there were connected to what was in that coffin as if it was my father," Robert Fazio said.
A mangled credit card was the only trace of Ronald Fazio recovered in the more than 1.5 million tons of trade center rubble that rescue workers excavated for more than nine months. Out of nearly 2,800 victims, fewer than 300 whole bodies were recovered.
Forensic teams worked around the clock after the disaster, while families visited refrigerated trucks parked outside the coroner's office holding human remains.
Nearly 20,000 pieces of remains were found -- more than 6,000 small enough to fit in 5-inch test tubes. The most matched to one person exceeded 200. More than 800 victims were identified by DNA alone.
The work concludes with nearly 10,000 unidentified parts, which were freeze-dried and vacuum sealed for preservation in case forensic technology advances. The most common roadblock is that DNA is so badly degraded from heat, humidity and time that scientists cannot make a match.
"I feel very gratified that we got as far as we did, given the quality of the DNA that we had to work with," said Robert Shaler, director of forensic biology. "We know there's still some DNA there in some of these remains ... but we need other techniques to get at it, and when that happens we'll have someone on the job to look for new identifications."
Medical examiner's spokeswoman Ellen Borakove said workers started calling families a few weeks ago and will send letters likely by next month.
The victims' families praised the medical examiner's office and the gentle way the staff has handled the heartwrenching task.
"We really felt they did everything they could," said Diane Horning, whose 26-year-old son, Matthew, was killed.
Four pieces of her son were identified -- the first shortly after the attack, and the last just a few months ago.
Like the Hornings, of New Jersey, hundreds of relatives have had to endure multiple notifications from the medical examiner. As a result, many families postponed decisions about what to do with remains until now.
Others couldn't face the horror.
"I kind of pretend it didn't happen," said Maureen Shay, of Staten Island, who lost her son, Robert. "Something was found. I don't know what it is. I don't want to know what it is. I prefer to think of him as whole someplace."
For those still grieving the victims who were never found, it sometimes helps to think of their loved ones as having disappeared.
Eric LaBorie, whose wife, Kathryn, was a flight attendant on the plane that crashed into the south tower, said he never expected she would be found. She was working the first-class cabin on Sept. 11 and was likely at the front of the plane, he reasoned.
"With the impact and the jet fuel, I just kinda knew that she had vanished into the air," said LaBorie, who lives in Providence, R.I. "I would have been really surprised if they did call me and tell me they found something."
LaBorie had almost forgotten he had given the medical examiner his wife's toothbrush and comb for DNA, like thousands of victims' relatives numbly did shortly after the attack.
Not having a grave and other rites of mourning was frustrating, he said. He has returned to the park in Bermuda where they were married and has thought of putting a bench there in her memory.
The relatives of the unidentified are used to this -- they have had to be creative at every turn in their grief.
Like so many milestones since Sept. 11, Robert Fazio said, the end of the medical examiner's work is "a message to some of us, that we need to remember our family members for who they were when their bodies were here in full, and live our lives knowing that."
Thanks for the ping!
This is sad. Thanks for the pictures. I have a couple good links on my home page, look for the towers, it's all there.
There is a few more at my link.
I'm going to cry.
That is so powerful. Never forget!
I promise, I will never forget!
I couldn't even if I wanted to do so.
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