MEDiA: The Last Secrets of 9/11

A fascinating if rather grim documentary, detailing the gargantuan forensic project that arose from the smouldering hell of ground zero.

Interestingly the global scale of the disaster is brought home through the story of Geoffrey Campbell, a British man killed in the attacks.

Geoff Campbell, at right, with his bothers.

Just as technology advances during war time, the science of forensics has been advanced by the unprecedented work required.

At one point, the investigation had to be halted, as the DNA work that could be done, had been done. Of the nearly three thousand victims, a little over half had been painstakingly identified.

The scale and intensity of the carnage was so extreme that very few remains – about 300 people – could be identified in the quickest normal ways: visuals, such as facial recognition, fingerprints, teeth, tattoos, scars, etc, yielded very few results.

Rubble is sifted for human remains.

Ultimately ground bones and the DNA they contain would be the key. Both in the initial investigation, and again in the second wave of analysis. And so a larger tranche of results became available. And in 2013 a third wave of new identifications occurred, but only four victims could be ID’ed.

So there’s a law of diminishing returns at work. And still there’s a pretty large number of relatives – about 40% – who have no remains at all with which to commemorate their loss. This is a very particular angle on these momentous events. Fascinating and heartbreaking.

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