The remains of five people killed in the terrorist attack on the Pentagon were damaged beyond identification in the massive explosion and fire after a hijacked airliner crashed into the building's west side, officials said.
Investigators have identified remains of 184 people who were aboard American Airlines Flight 77 or inside the Pentagon, including those of the five hijackers, but they say it is impossible to match what is left with the five missing people.
“They exhausted all scientific leads,” said Army Major James Cassella, a Pentagon spokesman. “When all was said and done, they weren't able to identify all of them.”
A team of more than 100 workers at a military morgue at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware used several methods to identify remains but primarily relied on DNA testing and dental records. They formally ended their effort Friday after concluding that some remains were too badly burned to identify.
“Some remains were just untestable,” said Chris Kelly, a spokesman for the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Washington. “We tested everything we could.”
A military chaplain and two other officers went to Mickey Golinski's apartment in Howard County on Friday to inform her that there was nothing left to bury of her son, Columbia resident Ronald Golinski.
“It's sad,” Golinski said. “It breaks your heart.”
The family had hoped to bury Ronald Golinski, a retired Army colonel who was working in a civilian job at the Pentagon, at Arlington National Cemetery. Instead, they will have to settle for placing a plaque at Arlington.
“We will not be able to use a casket, because they don't have any part of his body,” she said.
Brenda Lynch, of Manassas, learned that investigators had determined there are no identifiable remains of her husband, James T. Lynch, a civilian electronics technician who worked in the Navy's command center, an office that lost 26 workers.
“Considering the massive destruction of the area he was in, it's not surprising, but we were holding out hope,” said Lynch, a government worker. “It's disappointing, but I know they did all they can do.”
The family has held a memorial service for her husband, a 35-year government employee, she said.
No remains were recovered from two other victims who were working at the Pentagon: Ronald John Hemenway, a Navy electronics technician who was a native of Kansas City, Kan., and Rhonda Rasmussen, of Woodbridge, an Army civilian budget analyst. The fifth unidentified victim was a passenger on the hijacked plane. A spokesman for the FBI declined to disclose the name of the victim (note: Dana Falkenberg).
The Sept. 11 attack on the Pentagon killed 124 workers in the building. Another victim died several days later at a local hospital. All 64 people aboard the hijacked plane, including six crew members and the five hijackers, were also killed.
Military officials said they had been preparing families for some time for the possibility that there might not be any remains of some victims.
“That was one of the things we kept reiterating, that there would be some victims who would not be identified,” said Marine Maj. Ben Owens, who worked with families at an assistance center in Crystal City. “We've been trying real hard to prepare people, but it's a hard thing to do.”
For Golinski, it was a long wait. She had been staying close to home for two months, hoping for word on her son.
“It took them an inordinately long period of time to come to this conclusion,” she said. “All we heard was that he was missing. That's all we heard until Friday.”
Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld will decide how the unidentified remains will be interred, officials said. One possibility is that they will be buried in a common casket at a location such as Arlington.
“We want to ensure that they are handled in an appropriate and dignified manner,” said Cassella, the Pentagon spokesman.
The remains of the five hijackers have been identified through a process of exclusion, as they did not match DNA samples contributed by family members of all 183 victims who died at the site.
The hijackers' remains will be turned over to the FBI and held as evidence, FBI spokesman Chris Murray said. After the investigation is concluded, the State Department will decide what is to be done with the remains.
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Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard