Sarah Gonzalez, Reporter, WNYC/NJPR
Sarah Gonzalez is the northern New Jersey enterprise reporter for WNYC and NJPR.
Twelve years after the Sept. 11 attacks, the loved ones of victims are still getting calls from the New York City Medical Examiner's Office about newly identified remains.
Sandra Grazioso from Clifton, N.J., said her family got one of those calls last week. She lost both of her sons in the terrorist attack — Tim, 42, and John, 41. Two more body parts belonging to Tim had been identified.
"An upper arm and shoulder and a tooth," Grazioso says. "A molar."
According to Ellen Borakove with the New York City Medical Examiner's Office, more than 8,000 individual body parts gathered from the Sept. 11 wreckage have not yet been identified, out of the 22,000 individual remains that were recovered.
For more than a decade, the Grazioso family has been receiving the remains of the two brothers. The body parts the family just got the call about were found years ago.
"But they just ID'd them now," she says. "They called my daughter-in-law. They call her every time."
Borakove says one victim can be linked to hundreds of remains, some as small as a centimeter, others several inches long. Each piece is tested for DNA and delivered to funeral homes for families to collect.
Since the attacks, the Medical Examiner's Office has identified close to 14,000 individual body parts belonging to 1,634 people.
More than 1,000 people who went missing that day have not yet had any remains linked to them.
When more of John Grazioso's body parts were identified last year, his family had his casket lifted to place the new body parts inside. "And then put it back in the ground," Sandra Grazioso says.
Families can choose to not get calls when body parts are identified; any unclaimed remains will go into the Sept. 11 memorial in New York City.
Generations later, if relatives want to find out about the remains of loved ones killed that day, they'll still be able to do so.