Grieving families spent Veterans Day weekend awaiting word from the specialists striving to identify six “unknowns” people killed in the September 11 terrorist strike on the Pentagon whose remains have not yet been found and identified.
“We’ve done, and continue to do, everything humanly possible. It’s our goal to be able to identify everyone and we’re working hard to do that,” said Chris Kelly of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP).
The death toll was 125 workers killed inside the Pentagon offices that were struck by a hijacked Boeing 767, plus the 64 persons aboard the plane.
Soon after the attack, new identifications were made nearly every day, but none has been announced since Oct. 22. Of the 125 Pentagon workers who died, the remains of 118 were found and identified. One rescued woman, Antoinette Sherman, 36, died of her wounds at a hospital on Sept. 18.
AFIP is using its file of DNA samples collected from all troops since 1992, countless pathologists and a skilled forensic anthropologist to solve the puzzles.
Civilian families have been asked to provide “reference samples” of hair, saliva or old bloodstains from which DNA could be extracted for comparison with tissue from remains at the morgue.
The task is so lengthy because AFIP is careful, Mr. Kelly said. He insists there is no plan to quit what once would have been a hopeless task.
As of Veterans Day, the list of missing stood at these six:
Army Sgt. 1st Class Jose Orlando Calderon, 44, Annandale, a 19-year veteran working as a supply sergeant in the Army personnel office, who leaves a wife and children ages 10 and 3.
Army civilian Ronald F. Golinski, 60, Columbia, Md., who leaves a wife and children.
Navy Electronics Tech. 3rd Class Ronald J. Hemenway, 37, Shawnee, Kan., a seven-year veteran who leaves a wife, a 2-year-old son and a 10-month-old daughter.
Navy civilian James T. Lynch, 55, Manassas, Va., a motorcycle hobbyist who flew the American flag from a pole in the middle of the yard he tended so carefully. He leaves a wife, a son and a daughter.
Army veteran and civilian employee Rhonda S. Rasmussen, 44, Woodbridge, Va., a financial specialist whose husband of 27 years, Floyd, evacuated safely from his own Pentagon office halfway around the building and searched for her for three hours before going home. She leaves a daughter and three sons.
Navy Information Systems Tech. 1st Class Marshal D. Ratchford, 34, Prichard, Ala., a Mobile suburb, who leaves a husband and children, ages 11, 8 and 1.
As many as 400 mortuary workers and forensic specialists led by Acting Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Abu Bakr Marzouk so far are unable to match those last six names with remains in the morgue at Dover Air Force Base’s Charles C. Carson Center for Mortuary Affairs.
The work has moved back to the DNA labs in Rockville, Mr. Kelly said.
He said more than 300 Dover workers and the 80-member AFIP team included forensic dentists, radiologists and a forensic anthropologist whose job was to make sense of the commingled remains “which are a fact of life in aircraft accidents.”
“There still are remains at Dover, but if a family has been notified of a positive identification, that means we’ve issued a Virginia death certificate and those remains have gone, released for burial,” Mr. Kelly said.
“The utmost effort was made to recover all remains before reconstruction began,” said Defense Department spokesman Maj. James Cassella.
He said crews dug deeply to remove all debris that could have hidden remains.
First remains were moved out Sept. 13, with 85 bodies recovered over the next two days and taken to Dover on CH-47 Chinook helicopters.
Initial Pentagon estimates of the missing were remarkably accurate with only two errors, both eerily prophesying deaths elsewhere in the terror attacks. The first lists of the Pentagon missing included Bryan C. Jack, who was a passenger on American Airlines Flight 77 that hit the building, and Herbert W. Homer, of the Defense Contract Management Agency, who was aboard United Airlines Flight 175, which hit the World Trade Center.
Overall, 69 Army and 39 Navy personnel were lost; 47 of the Army’s casualties and six of the Navy’s were civilians. The Pentagon toll also included seven employees of Defense Department agencies and 10 contractors. Families of civilians killed in the Pentagon were denied permission to bury relatives in Arlington National Cemetery.