The clues have been there from the beginning, staring investigators in the face.
When the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center were destroyed on the morning of September 11, 2001, the bones of the victims, shattered into tiny fragments, were propelled outward with explosive force. Sometimes they became embedded in the soft tissue of other victims, causing a “commingling” that has made identifying the remains more difficult.
Fast forward 20 years: A staggering 40 percent of the people who died at the World Trade Center have still not been identified. Among the 60 percent who have, an average of eight fragments per person, usually comprising a small fraction of their body mass, have been found. Indeed, fewer than 100 intact bodies were pulled from the rubble. Of the 21,905 remains recovered, one-third have yet to be linked to a victim as the project to identify the dead, run by the New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME), enters its third decade.
Forensic anthropologist Amy Mundorff, who worked on the OCME project from 2001 to 2004, wrote a dissertation in 2009 titled “Human Identification Following the World Trade Center Disaster: Assessing Management Practices for Highly Fragmented and Commingled Human Remains.” In her detailed account of the work, Mundorff describes how “medical examiner personnel were initially caught off guard by the degree of destruction and fragmentation to the recovered human remains.”
Unfortunately, instead of questioning whether such extreme fragmentation could be caused by a gravitational collapse, she and her colleagues apparently chalked it up to the immense scale of the towers: “They had no theoretical schema to comprehend the injuries a human body suffers in the collapse of a 110-story building.”
And yet, Mundorff’s description of the fragmentation and commingling of remains seems strikingly incompatible with the official narrative of a fire-induced collapse. She writes: “The explosive force that blew over fire trucks and peeled stone façades from buildings also disintegrated human bodies, turning bone into flying shrapnel, which became embedded in fragments of soft tissue from other individuals.”