Though many of their names appear on memorials across the nation, 40% of those who died in the Sept. 11 terrorist attack at the World Trade Center — more than 1,000 people — have never been officially identified.

They are gone, their families probably know. But their DNA has not been matched to any of the remains found at Ground Zero or beyond.

As the nation approaches a somber 20th anniversary of the tragedy, the New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner announced Tuesday that it has formally identified two more people who were killed that day. Researchers are hopeful that the new techniques used to identify those two will help them make progress in remaining cases.

The last identifications made before the ones announced on Tuesday were in October 2019; the pace slowed to a crawl after the hundreds of identifications in the few years after 2001. New, more sensitive DNA sequencing technology now “promises to result in more new identifications,” the medical examiner’s office said in a statement.

Dorothy Morgan of Hempstead, N.Y., is the 1,646th person to be identified. The family of the other person identified requested his name be withheld, according to the medical examiner’s office.

Morgan’s daughter, Nykiah Morgan, told NBC New York that though she had recognized her mother was gone, she was shocked to hear officials had identified her remains.


Some part of her hadn’t let go of the possibility of her mother still being out there somewhere, she told the station.

“Maybe she had amnesia. Maybe she’s out living a whole different life and she’s happy,” she said.

Dorothy Morgan worked for Marsh & McLennan, an insurance company, and would have been 67 this year. Her name is etched on the 9/11 memorial in New York City.

Her identity was confirmed after testing remains that were recovered in 2001. The unnamed man’s identity was confirmed through testing remains recovered across several years: 2001, 2002 and 2006, the medical examiner’s office said.

All remains have been tested at this point, and scientists are now doing the tedious work of re-examining remaining bone fragments using new, pioneering technology.

“We continue to push the science out of necessity to make more identifications,” said Mark Desire, manager of the World Trade Center DNA Identification Team, which is part of the medical examiner’s office, in a statement. “The commitment today is as strong as it was in 2001.”


Next generation sequencing, which is also used by the U.S. military, is now being employed to help verify more World Trade Center victims. Researchers said this method allows them to test samples previously considered too far degraded to be useful.

Initially, scientists had more than 22,000 remains to examine, ranging from more complete bodies to tiny fragments of bone. Victims’ families provided about 17,000 reference DNA samples for comparison, officials said, including toothbrushes, razors and saliva samples from children and siblings.

Researchers said at a Wednesday news conference that they have about 30 sets of remains with DNA profiles that do not match any of those reference samples.

“At this present time, we have no way of identifying those individuals,” said DNA scientist and lab supervisor Carl Gajewski.

This could be because families did not provide reference DNA samples, Gajewski said. Separately, some families have also requested to not be notified if their loved ones’ remains are positively identified.

A private repository of unidentified and unclaimed remains is held at the National September 11 Memorial complex and is maintained by the medical examiner’s office.


The endeavor of identifying the remaining victims of Sept. 11 is the “largest and most complex forensic investigation in the history of the United States,” the medical examiner’s office said.

In a virtual news conference Wednesday, Desire said despite advances in technology, some of the remains will probably never be identified.

“Just because you can physically hold a sample in your hand or see it in front of you doesn’t mean that the DNA is intact,” he said. “It depends on what that sample was exposed to at Ground Zero.”

While the most recent identifications are the first new ones since 2019, Desire said the lab identifies bone fragments each year of people whose identities have been previously confirmed and returns those pieces to their families.

The technological strides researchers have made while working to identify those lost on 9/11 have been used after other disasters around the world, Desire said, from cold cases in New York City to far-flung mass casualties and missing person cases.

He said based on these most recent identifications and advances in technology, he’s confident that the lab will be able to reunite more families with their loved ones’ remains.

New York City’s Chief Medical Examiner Barbara Sampson echoed the sentiment in a statement.

“Twenty years ago, we made a promise to the families of World Trade Center victims to do whatever it takes for as long as it takes to identify their loved ones, and with these two new identifications, we continue to fulfill that sacred obligation,” she said.