The city examiner identified a man killed in the Sept. 11 attacks nearly 16 years after they happened. It is the first new identification of a victim from the terrorist attack since 2015. As DNA testing methods have advanced, the chief medical examiner’s office becomes more capable of identifying remains of the victims, according to the New York Post.
“Since the immediate days following the World Trade Center disaster in 2001, the Office of Chief Medical Examiner has worked to identify the victims, and we will continue to uphold this commitment using the most advanced scientific methods available,” said Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Barbara Sampson, via the New York Post.
Of the 2,753 people killed in the attacks, 1,641 have been identified. The examiner’s office uses bone fragments found at the site of the attacks and matches that with DNA evidence. Other means are also used.
The process is made more difficult by the fact that few full bodies were recovered. The office has 21,900 individual fragments of remains to identify. Heat, bacteria, and chemicals, including those from jet fuel, make the job that much more challenging.
Advancements in the testing methods were made earlier this year by the office. An office spokeswoman credits the newer, more sensitive testing technology with the latest discovery.
The name of the latest victim identified has been withheld at the family’s request.
The current process as developed over time consists of pulverizing the remains to extract DNA, and then comparing that with genetic material gathered that relates to the victim or the victim’s family.
Unidentified remains are stored at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum. Families can also decide to have a loved one’s remains kept there after identification, as well. All testing is done at a lab in the Kips Bay section of Manhattan, bordering the East River.
The repository with the remains is kept apart from the memorial, and is inaccessible to the general public. It occupies 2,500 square feet of space within the memorial complex. It is designed so family members can access the space and pay respects to their loved ones, according to the webpage for the chief medical examiner.
On Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists hijacked two planes and flew them into the World Trade Center towers. Both towers collapsed. A plane also hit the Pentagon, and another plane was brought down in a field in Pennsylvania. That plane was believed to be heading toward Washington, D.C., before people on board stepped in.
Most of the hijackers were from Saudi Arabia. A few also came from Lebanon, United Arab Emirates, and Egypt. They are believed to have links to terrorist group al-Qaeda. The 9/11 Memorial & Museum describes their aims in carrying out the attacks: “Their aim has been to overthrow governments in the Middle East, and elsewhere in the Muslim world, which do not strictly enforce a religiously sanctioned political and social order. Attacks against the United States were intended to reduce American support for many of these governments; U.S. support was viewed by al-Qaeda as a major obstacle to creating a global order under Islamic authority.”