Thousands Of 9/11 Remains To Stay Unidentified

Today the medical examiner's office announced it is largely ending its effort to identify the remains of 9/11 victims.
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Video: Thousands Of 9/11 Remains To Stay UnidentifiedImages From the Story
Video: Thousands Of 9/11 Remains To Stay Unidentified

Today the medical examiner's office announced it is largely ending its effort to identify the remains of 9/11 victims. Officials say they have gone as far as current technology allows.

More than a thousand victims remain unidentified - almost half of all the victims who died at the World Trade Center. Not surprisingly their families are very disappointed by the news.

Eyewitness News reporter N.J. Burkett is at Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan.

This was, without a doubt, one of the greatest challenges in the history of forensic science. Hundreds of the victims were identified, but so many remain among the missing tonight and their families are struggling to accept that.

Monica Iken, Victim's Wife: "It seems like he just went to work one day and it just appears like he vanished from the planet."

Monica Iken had been married to her husband Michael for barely 11 months when he died with nearly 3,000 others at the World Trade Center. He remains have never been recovered.

Monica Iken, Victim's Wife: "I never got a ring, I didn't get an ID back and it's just a weird feeling of emptiness that you can't bring any part of your loved one home and at this point they're just parts of fragments and bones and whatever, but even that little bit says that person was there you could take something home."

Michael Iken was one of 1,161 victims who remain unidentified tonight - roughly 42 percent of those who lost their lives. Eighty-five percent of the identifications that were made came from DNA matches, 6 percent came from dental records, 5 percent from fingerprints, and the rest through photographs, personal affects and direct identification.

The collapse of the World Trade Center turned the towers to dust and scientists have since struggled to find even the smallest trace of those who perished. But even the most advanced technology had its limits.

Dr. George Bauries, Forensic Scientist: "When the pieces become so small and actually start getting into areas where it becomes fine particles, it becomes extremely difficult to get enough DNA to do the analysis."

Dr. Robert Shaler, NYC Med. Examiner's Office: "When you have buildings that burned for three months and they were spraying water on them to keep them cool - well humidity and heat enemies of DNA - so the quality of the DNA inside the remains was very bad."

Diane Horning lost her son Matthew, his remains were recovered.

Diane Horning, Victim's Mother: "It did not give me comfort. I think there's a sense of reality that you get when you have a recovery that many people - almost 1,200 - don't have."

The unidentified remains will have a place here when the memorial is eventually completed. Scientists are holding out hope tonight that someday they may be able to finish this awful task.

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