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.
Authorities confirmed the identification of the remains of a man and woman days ahead of the 22nd anniversary of the hijacked-plane attack that killed nearly 3,000 people in Lower Manhattan. Their names were withheld by city officials at the request of 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.
Advancements in the sequencing technology, including increased test sensitivity and faster turnaround times, have allowed officials to identify remains that had tested negative for identifiable DNA for decades, officials said.
Similar efforts are used by the U.S. military to identify missing service members and are currently underway to test body fragments from more than 100 people killed during the wildfires in Maui last month.
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. They are currently being stored at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum at the World Trade Center site.
Dr. Jason Graham, the city’s chief medical examiner, said officials were committed to fulfilling their “solemn pledge” to return the remains of all of the attack’s victims.
“Faced with the largest and most complex forensic investigation in the history of our country, we stand undaunted in our mission to use the latest advances in science to serve this promise,” Graham said.
In addition to the toll that day, the World Trade Center attack exposed hundreds of thousands of people in lower Manhattan to toxic air and debris, and hundreds have since died from post-9/11 related illnesses. The exact number is unknown, but firefighter union leaders say 341 FDNY members have died of illnesses related 9/11,CBS New York reports.
An annual ceremony to remember those who died on September 11, 2001, is being held in lower Manhattan on Monday. CBS News New York will be streaming9/11memorial coverage starting at 8:25 a.m. ET with the reading of the names of those who were killed.
“As we prepare to mark the anniversary of September 11, our thoughts turn to those we lost on that terrible morning and their families who continue to live every day with the pain of missing loved ones,” Mayor Eric Adams said in a statement. “We hope these new identifications can bring some measure of comfort to the families of these victims.”