SUSAN DENTZER: To hear his wife Madeline tell it, Ted Moy, the 48-year-old son of Chinese immigrants, was an American from his head to his toes.
MADELINE MOY: He's such a patriot. He wants to make sure every Fourth of July, he would be dressed in some flag top. And this is the last one he bought, and it was this year. And, you know, on top of that he said, "I'm going to be wearing this every year for the rest of my life, so you'll be seeing me like this on every Fourth of July."
SUSAN DENTZER: Father of two, and a civilian Army employee, Ted Moy worked at the Pentagon. When his wife did not hear from him after last week's terrorist attack, she called various Pentagon phone numbers he'd given her to track him down.
MADELINE MOY: He's been moved around just, you know, different parts of Pentagon. I said, "Okay, I'll give him a few more hours," you know, and then I start to cry.
SUSAN DENTZER: By the time Madeline Moy and other family members were taken by bus several days later to see the crash site, they knew Ted wasn't coming back.
MADELINE MOY: He has gotten burned so badly, all that fume, all that flame, all that burning all night, 30-odd some hours. I won't be able to see my husband anymore. But not just not having even a body part back, you know, any part of his body back, is going to be devastating to me, because even if it's, like, a bone or something, I said that, "How we're going to do this? Are we going to have to bury him or are we going to keep it?"
SUSAN DENTZER: More than 6,500 people are now believed to have been killed in last week's two terrorist attacks. At New York's World Trade Center, many bodies were burned, then dismembered or crushed below collapsing steel and concrete. At the Pentagon, most of the bodies of 64 aboard the American Airlines jet and another 124 in military offices were often burned beyond recognition. Clearly many remains will never be recovered, and identifying what can be recovered, much of it in mere fragments, will be a nearly unimaginable task.
DR. CHARLES STAHL: That is mind-boggling, and I can't tell you at this point how this is going to be accomplished or when it will be accomplished. I don't know.
SUSAN DENTZER: Dr. Charles Stahl was the armed forces' chief medical examiner until his retirement several years ago. He says identifying the many bodies and body fragments will be difficult, but still crucial.
DR. CHARLES STAHL: I have had questions in the past. "Why do we bother with all of this? It is very expensive, too many people involved, why don't we just say they were in that building and forget about it?" Well, that's unacceptable in the United States.
SUSAN DENTZER: Stahl says families clearly want loved ones' remains for burial, and to begin coming to terms with death. There's also the need for a death certificate for insurance claims or to settle an estate. All remains recovered from the Pentagon are being taken by helicopter or truck to Dover Air Force base in Delaware. That's the site of a large mortuary facility created for use in wartime. There, experts are using various scientific methods to establish identity, such as matching fingerprints, dental records and X-rays. And on all remains removed from the Pentagon, they'll also use another powerful instrument of analysis-- DNA, the genetic material that distinguishes one person from another. Colonel Brian Smith is chief deputy medical examiner and directs a special DNA registry for the armed forces. He says that to analyze a victim's DNA, technicians first remove a small piece of tissue from remains.
COLONEL BRIAN SMITH: The preferred sample is actually a small piece of soft tissue, generally muscle, usually five to ten grams that is removed and put in a tube and sent to us for analysis. We also can analyze bone, and we also can analyze teeth as well.
SUSAN DENTZER: The tissue is sent to an armed forces' lab in Rockville, Maryland, where the DNA is removed and analyzed. But to make a positive identification, technicians also need what's called a reference sample-- an actual piece of tissue or blood that they know comes from the victim.
STAFF: Hey, hey, Captain Jack.
SUSAN DENTZER: In the case of military personnel on active duty, getting such a sample is easy. That's because bloodstains on cards are now collected from them for the express purpose of identifying them after death. But in the case of civilians at the Pentagon, as well as the thousands at the World Trade Center, obtaining those DNA reference samples may be substantially harder. Unless technicians can locate a blood or surgical sample taken from the victim while alive, they may turn to an extracted wisdom tooth or even baby teeth. Otherwise, they may have to reconstruct the victim's DNA profile by analyzing blood samples of close relatives, ideally, parents, spouses and children. Once technicians have DNA from these reference samples, they compare it to that taken from the victim's remains. They focus on just 13 particular segments of DNA along different chromosomes. If these segments of DNA match up, there is only an infinitesimal chance that the two samples are not from the same person. Although identifying the remains of the Pentagon victims could take months, the process will surely pale in comparison to identifying tens of thousands or more body fragments collected from the World Trade Center.
On its Web site, the New York City government asks families to locate toothbrushes, hairbrushes, unwashed undergarments and even used Kleenex that might contain samples that could provide victims' DNA. The New York medical examiner says the job of analyzing all that DNA is so vast that it will likely be done by private genomics companies-- including Maryland-based Celera Corporation, best known for its role in helping to produce a draft sequence of the entire human genome last year. Former armed forces medical examiner Dr. Stahl says analyzing and cross-referencing such samples will be an unprecedented and very costly effort.
DR. CHARLES STAHL: No one has ever encountered anything quite like this at one time, and you need to have some computer program that will collate all of this data so that you will be able to interpret what does this mean, who is this individual, how did they die, when did they die, and all of the questions you need to answer.
SUSAN DENTZER: 52 of the 117 remains removed from the Pentagon have now been identified. Out of the more than 6,300 missing in New York those identified and whose families have also been notified now number 135.