On September 11, 2023, DNA testing identified two more victims.
The remains of two people who died in the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center have been identified, the latest positive identification in the decadeslong effort to return victims to their families.
New York City’s medical examiner has now been able to link remains to 1,649 World Trade Center victims, a painstaking process that relies on leading-edge DNA sequencing techniques to test body fragments recovered in the rubble.
Despite forensic advancements, the effort to identify the remains of 9/11 victims has slowed in recent years. The two positive identifications are the first since September 2021, officials said. Before that, the last identification was made in 2019.
More than 1,000 human remains from the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks have yet to be identified.
And that’s over 20 years later.
The Twin Towers was a worst-case scenario for identifying bodies The size of the buildings, the density, and the heat, and the sheer number of dead who came from across the tri-state area, often with no close relatives nearby, means that this task will probably never be finished.
The Maui wildfires was messy for different reasons.
Authorities in Hawaii have adjusted the number of deaths from the deadly Maui wildfire down to at least 97 people. Officials previously said they believed at least 115 people had died in the fire, but further testing showed they had multiple DNA samples from some of the victims. The number of those who are missing also fell from 41 to 31, Maui Police Chief John Pelletier said.
Determining the death toll from the Aug. 8 wildfire in Lahaina has been especially complicated because of the damage caused by the fire and the chaos as people tried to escape, officials said. In some cases, animal remains were inadvertently collected along with human remains.
Byrd said the initial death tally was too high for several reasons, adding that the lower tally now was the “normal and natural” progression of the long-term forensics investigation.
“We look at body bags that come in and we do an initial inventory and we assess how many people are represented there,” he said. “When you do the first tally of all those that have come in, the number tends to be too high because as you begin to do more analysis and examination you realize that actually you’ve got two bags that were the same person or you have two bags that were the same two people but you didn’t realize that.”
And apparently, a quarter of the bodies had no usable DNA samples.
In Israel, IDF soldiers were identified fairly quickly because they have DNA on record and they were more likely to be shot which left bodies more intact. Some of the civilians killed by Hamas were burned to death when the terrorists set fire to their homes to force them out. Other bodies were mutilated in other ways.
Since most of the non-military dead were from small close-knit communities, it’s been easier to get DNA samples from family members to test them against. Those who were killed in their homes are also easier to identify. But it’s still a long and drawn out process with a death toll that now tops 1,300.
Along with the massive Israeli casualties are over the bodies of 1,500 Hamas terrorists. Currently, Israeli personnel bag them and mark them as terrorists, but it’s not always easy to tell them apart.
The sheer number of dead also makes the process very slow. Israel had never planned for anything on this scale. Even the process of burials has badly slowed down.
As mentioned in my article yesterday, Hamas had sent in a massive force to hold the towns themselves. At least as of today, some communities were still suspected of having terrorists lurking inside. That also slows down rescue and recovery efforts.
All of this is grim stuff, but there’s a reason I’m writing about it.
News used to play out at the speed of cable news. That was bad enough. It now plays out at the speed of social media. People expect an instant packaged story as soon as they swipe on an app. It doesn’t work that way. War is chaos. Unpacking and piecing together anything big takes a while. And nothing is ever fully known. After all this time, over 1,000 human remains from 9/11 have yet to be identified. Israel is pretty good at identifying them. It’s had to be due to the era of suicide bombing attacks which often left fragments to be pieced together. But it’s going to take a while.
Right now there’s a massive military deployment. The places where the attacks happened are effectively a war zone. And terrorists continue popping up. Under those conditions, stories will be pieced together the wrong way, from off-hand comments by rescue workers or soldiers on the scene, by a media that instantly wants something to work with.
Until then we have video that the Hamas terrorists took themselves, but will only show so much of what happened.
The death tolls continue to rise. I hope and pray that they’ll fall. Bodies will be literally pieced together in some cases. Some of the details may change, but the big picture will not. Mass murder. Rapes and kidnappings. Murdered families.
There are those who will spread conspiracy theories because it’s what they do. Decent people will understand that wartime is a crisis mode, not a TV show that neatly packages everything together and offers immediate gratification.