Friday, September 20, 2002

Health and Medicine museum exhibit features photographs of 9-11 crash sites

The National Museum of Health and Medicine, located on Walter Reed, has unveiled an exhibit highlighting efforts used by its parent organization, the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, to identify the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks at the Pentagon and the crash of United Airlines Flight 93 in Somerset County, Pa.

The exhibit, Research Matters: 9/11, The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology Responds, features photographs never before seen by the public that were taken by AFIP staff as part of their duties. The exhibit will run indefinitely.

"The experiences of my colleagues in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks have become part of our collective national memory and have been documented by the museum for lasting value to the world," said Dr. Adrianne Noe, museum director. "Visitors can learn through this Research Matters exhibit about the personal experiences of U.S. military medicine personnel during unique challenges to our nation."

The AFIP successfully identified 184 Pentagon victims, provided positive DNA identifications on all 40 Pennsylvania victims, and developed genetic profiles of the terrorists that could not be matched to any of the other victims.

A team of more than 70 AFIP personnel was assembled, including civilians and members of every branch of the military, to perform forensic pathology, forensic odontology, forensic anthropology, photographic work, and DNA services to identify victims.

AFIP staff were sent to the Dover Port Mortuary at Dover Air Force Base, Del., to the Pentagon crash site, and to Somerset County, Pa. At the AFIP's Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory, more than 45 forensic scientists and support personnel provided DNA expertise.

AFIP personnel quoted in the exhibit are: "Ladies and Gentlemen, we will do a comprehensive examination, and we will leave no stone unturned. There will be zero errors." -- Navy Capt. Glenn N. Wagner, director, AFIP.

"Identifying victims is a humanitarian issue. Families need confirmation, and we have a duty to assist them in every way possible." -- Army Col. Brion C. Smith, director, DNA Registry, AFDIL.

"Our biggest concern was always for the families. We worked hard to get the job done and return the victims to their loved ones." -- Dr. William Rodriquez III, chief deputy medical examiner, Office of the Armed Forces Medical Examiner.

"This was very personal to me because a lot of the people killed were military, and I'm retired military. We also had civilians and children on the aircraft. My desire is to recover, identify, and return the victims to their families so they can start the closure process." -- Bob Veasey, chief of operational investigations, Office of the Armed Forces Medical Examiner.

"AFIP isn't just a job. Its role in identifying victims following tragedies like Sept. 11 is a real service we provide for families and the United States as a whole, and just to have been involved in something of that magnitude was astounding." -- Russell Strasser, chief of the Criminal Investigation Division, Office of the Armed Forces Medical Examiner.

"I was impressed with the dedication and

professionalism of the team deployed to Pennsylvania. The museum's focus is one of public service, but this work truly expresses the finest in assisting families during a time of need." -- Paul Sledzik, curator of anatomical collections, National Museum of Health and Medicine, AFIP and team commander of the Region III Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team that provided victim identification services for the United Airlines Flight 93 crash.

"Our main focus was to give back to the families of the service members what they had so generously given to our country. So we worked feverishly to accomplish that mission as expeditiously, thoroughly, thoughtfully, and respectfully as we could. I think I can speak for all involved when I say it was a labor of love, honor, and patriotism and that at that time there, doing my small part to honor our heroes and grieve their families' loss," said Penny L. Rodriguez, executive assistant, AFIP. (Article Courtesy of AFIP)