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New DNA Testing Helps Identify Remains Of 9/11 Victim Nearly 17 Years Later

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – It has been nearly 17 years since the September 11th terror attacks, and remains of one of the victims have just been identified.

As CBS2's Cindy Hsu reports, the medical examiner's officer was able to make the ID through a new kind of DNA testing.

More than 2,700 people were killed when the Twin Towers were attacked, including 26-year-old Scott Johnson who was working as a securities analyst at an investment bank on the 89th floor of the South Tower. The Montclair, New Jersey man was a big ice hockey player, so his family donated a hockey puck in remembrance to the 9/11 Memorial Museum. You can also find his name at the South Memorial Pool.

The only thing found at the scene for his family to hold onto was his wallet – until now.

This week, the medical examiner's office announced it has identified Johnson's bone through new DNA testing, where special chemicals are used to remove DNA from the bone fragments.

One of the main difficulties in the process of going through 22,000 remains is how degraded the fragments are.

"These remains went through, at Ground Zero, things like fire and water, jet fuel, sunlight, mold and bacteria – these will all destroy DNA," said Mark Desire, of the medical examiner's office.

Johnson is now the 1,642nd person to be identified. So far, 60 percent of those who died at the Twin Towers have been identified through remains, and each time a family is notified, it hits home for the forensics team.

"It gets very emotional each time, and that relationship and the 'thank yous' and the hugging, it's a very special project," Desire said.

He said the office made a promise to 9/11 families to keep searching for the remains of their loved ones, and he hopes more advances in DNA testing will allow them to keep that promise.

The medical examiner's office says the last ID was made in August of last year, but the victim's family did not want the name released.


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