The remains of a man who was killed during the 9/11 attacks more than two decades ago at the World Trade Center have finally been identified – thanks to new advances in DNA technology.
44-year-old John Niven, who was from, Oyster Bay, Long Island, was working on the 105th floor at the South Tower when one of the hijacked planes crashed into the building. He was the senior vice president at Aon Risk Services and left behind his wife and 18-month-old son.
According to New York City officials, officials were able to identify his remains using groundbreaking DNA technology, along with other procedures that have advanced significantly since the 9/11 attacks.
Mr. Niven’s widow, Ellen, expressed how emotional it was for her to learn that his DNA had been found 23 years later. She also said she had no idea that the efforts were still underway, given ‘the number of years that have passed.’
Mr. Niven is the 1,650th victim who has been positively identified from the 9/11 attacks – the deadliest terrorist attack in the United States, when hijackers crashed two commercial airplanes into the World Trade Center, killing more than 2,700 people.
Ellen and her family are grateful that they now have a part of him to lay to rest. While they already had a gravesite for him, where they buried some mementos, it’s more meaningful now that they have a part of him.
According to an online obituary, Mr. Niven, Ellen, and their infant son lived together in the Upper East Side but often traveled to Long Island on the weekends.
Mr. Niven graduated from Illinois’ Lake Forest College and enjoyed reading about history, and philosophy, and playing tennis with his friends.
Their son, also named John, is now 23. He told media outlets that while he was too young to remember the events of the attack, it means a lot to him to know that those in New York have remembered and stayed true to the ‘Never Forget Promise’.
He also praised the police and the medical examiner’s office for their incredible work and enduring effort.
As of now, there are still more than 1,100 victims who have not yet been identified at Ground Zero. However, the Medical Examiner’s Office is hopeful that they will be able to make strides with the new DNA technology as it allows them to take DNA from larger, but more deteriorated samples.
The same DNA technology was used to identify murder suspect Rex Heuermann, whose hair was found on several of his victims’ bodies.
In a statement, Chief Medical Examiner Jason Graham stated that their solemn promise ‘to find answers for families’ are still as strong today as they were immediately after the 9/11 attacks.