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Context of 'Summer 2002: Pennsylvania Coroner Receives Inquiry from Relative of Flight 93 Hijacker about Remains'

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Paper debris found in New Baltimore, six miles from the crash site.Paper debris found in New Baltimore, six miles from the crash site. [Source: Steve Mellon / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette] (click image to enlarge)Despite the apparent lack of plane wreckage and human remains at the Flight 93 crash site (see (After 10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 10:45 a.m. September 11, 2001), a large amount of paper debris is found there, mostly intact. Faye Hahn, an EMT who responds to the initial call for help, finds “pieces of mail” everywhere. [McCall, 2002, pp. 31-32] Roger Bailey of the Somerset Volunteer Fire Department finds mail “scattered everywhere” around the site. He says, “I guess there were 5,000 pounds of mail on board.” [Kashurba, 2002, pp. 38] Some envelopes are burned, but others are undamaged. Flight 93 had reportedly been carrying a cargo of thousands of pounds of US mail. [Longman, 2002, pp. 213-214] Whether this is later examined as crime scene evidence is unclear: According to Bailey, over subsequent days, whenever a lot of this mail has been recovered, the post office will be called and a truck will come to take it away. Several of the first responders at the crash site also see an unscorched bible lying open on the ground, about 15 yards from the crash crater. [Kashurba, 2002, pp. 43, 110 and 129; Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 6/13/2006] Local coroner Wallace Miller will later come across a second bible at the warehouse where the Flight 93 victims’ belongings are kept. [Washington Post, 5/12/2002] Other paper debris rains down on the nearby Indian Lake Marina (see (Before 10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001). According to witness Tom Spinelli, this is “mainly mail,” and also includes “bits of in-flight magazine.” [Mirror, 9/12/2002] Other paper items will be recovered from the crash site in the following days. These include a fragment of Ziad Jarrah’s passport and a business card linking al-Qaeda conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui to the 9/11 hijackers. [CNN, 8/1/2002; Washington Post, 9/25/2002] A flight crew log book and an in-flight manual belonging to Lorraine Bay, a flight attendant on Flight 93, will also be recovered. [National Museum of American History, 9/20/2003]

Entity Tags: Tom Spinelli, Faye Hahn, Roger Bailey

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Wallace Miller.Wallace Miller. [Source: Steve Mellon / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]Wallace Miller, the coroner of Somerset County, who is one of the first people to arrive at the Flight 93 crash scene, is surprised by the absence of human remains at the site. He will later say: “If you didn’t know, you would have thought no one was on the plane. You would have thought they dropped them off somewhere.” [Longman, 2002, pp. 217] The only recognizable body part Miller sees is a piece of spinal cord with five vertebrae attached. He will tell Australian newspaper The Age: “I’ve seen a lot of highway fatalities where there’s fragmentation. The interesting thing about this particular case is that I haven’t, to this day, 11 months later, seen any single drop of blood. Not a drop.” [Age (Melbourne), 9/9/2002] Dave Fox, a former firefighter, also arrives early at the crash scene, but sees just three chunks of human tissue. He will comment, “You knew there were people there, but you couldn’t see them.” [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 9/11/2002] Yet, in the following weeks, hundreds of searchers will find about 1,500 scorched human tissue samples, weighing less than 600 pounds—approximately eight percent of the total body mass on Flight 93. Months after 9/11, more remains will be found in a secluded cabin, several hundred yards from the crash site. [Washington Post, 5/12/2002]

Entity Tags: Dave Fox, Wallace Miller

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Human remains from the Flight 93 crash site are moved to a temporary morgue that has been set up at the Pennsylvania National Guard Armory, several miles away in Friedens. High-tech mortuary equipment has been brought to the armory in a tractor-trailer. [Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, 9/12/2001 pdf file; WTAE-TV, 9/13/2001] 75 to 100 specialists, including pathologists and fingerprint experts, are involved in the attempt to identify the remains. Forensic anthropologist Dennis Dirkmaat says that because the remains have suffered “extreme fragmentation,” most will need to be identified using DNA analysis. [Washington Post, 9/14/2001] When remains cannot be identified at the temporary morgue, samples are sent on to the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory in Rockville, Maryland, where samples from the Pentagon crash are also being analyzed (see September 11-November 16, 2001). [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/25/2001; Stars and Stripes, 10/8/2001; KCRA, 12/20/2001] By December 19, the remains of all 40 passengers and crew from Flight 93 have been identified, using fingerprints, dental records, and DNA. Investigators have, by a process of elimination, also been able to isolate genetic profiles of the four hijackers. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 12/30/2001; DMORT National News, 1/2002; Associated Press, 2/26/2002; Stripe, 9/20/2002] Searchers recovered about 510 pounds of human remains at the crash scene, equaling about eight percent of the total bodyweight on the plane. According to Somerset County Coroner Wallace Miller, everything else was vaporized. [Washington Post, 5/12/2002; Age (Melbourne), 9/9/2002; Canadian Press, 3/28/2004]

Entity Tags: Wallace Miller, Dennis Dirkmaat, Pennsylvania National Guard Armory, Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Wallace Miller, the coroner in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, where Flight 93 crashed on 9/11, is contacted by an uncle of one of the Flight 93 hijackers, who asks him if any remains of his nephew have been recovered. According to Miller: “I got a call from Beirut at 4 a.m. He said he was an uncle of one of them and wanted to know what the situation was. I said if he sent a DNA sample, we’d make a cross-reference to confirm, but I never heard anything more from him.” In 2008, Miller will say that he cannot recall the name of the caller or who his nephew was. However, only one of the Flight 93 hijackers—Ziad Jarrah—was from Beirut, while the others were apparently Saudis (see 1980s and 1990s). Miller will say that the uncle’s inquiry was apparently prompted by a British or South African journalist who had put the man on the phone after interviewing him about the events of 9/11. This appears to be the only attempt ever made by a relative to claim the remains of a hijacker (see September 21, 2008). [New York Times, 9/21/2008]

Entity Tags: Wallace Miller, Ziad Jarrah

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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