• Painstaking forensic analysis is enabling investigators to identify missing victims of the WTC attacks. (SBS)Source: SBS
Meet the team bringing closure to families, 15 years on.
Shane Cubis

2 Sep 2016 - 2:04 PM  UPDATED 9 Sep 2016 - 2:13 PM

Everyone knows the story. On September 11, 2001, terrorists hijacked four planes and flew two of them into the World Trade Centre in New York City, causing death, devastation and war. The global consequences are well-documented, but there are still mysteries to be solved at Ground Zero – including exactly who was killed in the attack. Now, forensic scientists working in a special lab are doing their best to bring closure to the loved ones of the 1113 victims still unaccounted for in the rubble and debris that lingers, 15 years on. Here’s why you should watch:


It ties the drama of the day to the emotions of real people

For many of us, the footage of planes flying into buildings is more iconic than real. It’s a symbol of when our lives and culture began to change, especially when it comes to travel and security. But for the friends and families of the people who were killed in the attacks, it’s far more visceral. The Last Secrets of 9/11 shares those stories, connecting the geo-political ramifications of terrorism to actual humans. That includes the firefighters and other volunteers who were there on the ground.


Some of the stories are incredible

A British man named Geoff Campbell was killed in the attacks, and in 2002 his family back home were sent all that remained of his body – a single collarbone. Unfortunately, that was two body parts less than the minimum requirement for a proper Catholic burial. Thanks to these forensic scientists, using updated techniques, the Campbell family were sent three more parts of Geoff, so he could be laid to rest in accordance with their religion.


The tireless work is inspiring

These men and women have been working for more than a decade to soothe the hearts and minds of people they may never meet. They’re passionate about the problem-solving element of their work, but to see a team putting their heads together in pursuit of a goal that is, essentially, an altruistic one is exactly how you would hope our society would behave in the wake of such a senseless attack. When you see the granular levels of the work they’re doing – pulling DNA from pulverised bones, for example – you’ll have a new appreciation for what’s involved here.


The science itself is mind-blowing

On top of the emotional aspects of separating remains from the great mass of debris, the actual science involved is incredible – and solving specific problems like this is often the best way to make conceptual and technological leaps. This is the world’s biggest crime scene investigation, and the investigators take advantage of every tool at their disposal. Cutting-edge DNA-identification techniques are teamed with high-end equipment to solve problems that were impossible a decade ago.


It's a new way to view the 9/11 story

Using a mixture of archive footage from September 11 and the days following, interviews with people affected by the attack and scientific action from the labs, The Last Secrets of 9/11 manages to bring a fresh angle to a story that most of us were there to witness at the time. And it does it without sensationalising, without conspiracy theories and with plenty of heart.


Watch The Last Secrets of 9/11 on Sunday, 11 September at 10:20pm (AEST) on SBS - and after broadcast on SBS On Demand:

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