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Context of '(Between September 13 and September 29, 2001): Morticians Discover a Note in the Stomach of a Passenger from Flight 77'

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Under the authority of the FBI, remains of 9/11 victims at the Pentagon are taken to a temporary morgue in the Pentagon’s north parking lot, where they are photographed, labeled, and then placed in refrigeration. [Stars and Stripes, 9/17/2001; US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A-47 pdf file; Quartermaster Professional Bulletin, 3/2005] They are then transported to Davison Army Airfield at nearby Fort Belvoir, and from there to Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, where there is a large mortuary created for use in wartime. FBI agents accompany the remains at all points during transportation. [American Forces Press Service, 9/15/2001; PBS, 9/21/2001; Soldiers, 10/2001; US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. C-55 pdf file] About 250 people, including 50 medical examiners and 50 members of the FBI’s ‘disaster team,’ work at the mortuary to identify the remains. [Stars and Stripes, 9/17/2001] Remains are first scanned for the presence of unexploded ordnance or metallic foreign bodies. FBI experts then collect trace evidence to find any chemicals from explosives, and also conduct fingerprint identifications. [Pentagram, 11/30/2001] Other techniques used include dental records and X-rays. Tissue samples are sent to an Armed Forces laboratory in Rockville, Maryland, for DNA analysis. [PBS, 9/21/2001] Identification is problematic because specimens are often unrecognizable body parts, and are nearly always mixed with debris composed of aircraft and building materials. [Harcke, Bifano, and Koeller, 4/2002] However, by the time Dover staff formally end their identification effort, on November 16, they have identified remains of 184 of the 189 people who died in the Pentagon or aboard Flight 77, including the five hijackers (see November 21, 2001). [Washington Post, 11/21/2001]

Entity Tags: Pentagon, Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory, Fort Belvoir, Dover Air Force Base, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Brad Meltzer.Brad Meltzer. [Source: Brad Meltzer]Morticians at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, find a secret note inside the stomach of one of the Flight 77 passengers who died in the Pentagon attack, which the passenger wrote and then ate shortly before they died, but the morticians will later refuse to reveal what the note says. [Washington Post, 3/4/2018; CBS News, 3/5/2018] The incident will only come to light around 2015, when bestselling thriller writer Brad Meltzer is conducting research for his novel The Escape Artist, which will be released in 2018.
Writer Will Learn about the Note during Research for a Novel - For his research, Meltzer will visit the Dover Port Mortuary at Dover Air Force Base, where the remains of the victims of the Pentagon attack were sent for identification (see September 11-November 16, 2001). [CBS Miami, 3/5/2018; New York Times, 3/16/2018] There, he will discuss the plot of his forthcoming novel with a mortician. He will ask if there is any way a person could leave a hidden message inside their body before they died. The mortician will answer that “if you’re on a plane that’s going down, if you handwrite a note and eat it, the human stomach has enough liquids to protect the note from burning” in the fire that erupts when the plane crashes, Meltzer will later recall. The mortician will then tell Meltzer that this “really happened” on 9/11.
Writer Will Be Told How the Secret Note Was Found - He will say that after the remains of the victims of the Pentagon attack were brought to Dover Port Mortuary, “When the morticians worked on one of the bodies, they found a note inside.” Apparently, according to the mortician, “as the plane was going down, one of the victims on Flight 77 actually ate a note, which was found by a Dover mortician.” He will call the passenger’s note the “ultimate message in a bottle.” He will refuse to tell Meltzer what it said, though. Meltzer will assume that the note must have been written by someone in the military, since, he will comment, “Who else would know that the liquid in your belly could preserve a piece of paper?” [Washington Post, 3/4/2018]
Pentagon Attack Victims' Remains Are Identified at Dover Air Base - The remains of the victims of the Pentagon attack are flown to Dover Air Force Base after 9/11, with the first set arriving there on the afternoon of September 13, and mortuary operations are fully underway by that evening. Over the next 16 days, a team of forensic specialists, scientists, and support personnel from the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology works at the Dover Port Mortuary to identify the victims. The FBI has a liaison at the mortuary while the remains are being identified, in case evidence is uncovered during the identification process. [Pentagram, 11/30/2001; Rossow, 2003, pp. 95; Condon-Rall, 2011, pp. 75] The secret note is presumably passed on to this liaison after being recovered from the victim’s stomach.

Entity Tags: Brad Meltzer, Dover Air Force Base

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The remains of all but one of the people on board Flight 77, including the hijackers, are identified. However, the identities of the hijackers have still not been confirmed through their remains, and the FBI does not provide DNA profiles of the hijackers to medical examiners for identification. [NFPA Journal, 11/1/2001; Washington Post, 11/21/2001; Mercury, 1/11/2002] As of mid-2004, there still have been no reports that the hijackers’ remains have been identified by their DNA, except possibly for two unnamed hijackers.

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Coffins of US war dead are shipped through Dover Air Force Base.Coffins of US war dead are shipped through Dover Air Force Base. [Source: Los Angeles Times]The Obama administration announces that the media can now photograph the flag-draped coffins of US soldiers killed in combat as they return through Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. Under a ban begun by the first Bush administration in 1991, news photographers were prohibited from taking pictures, journalists were prevented from interviewing families of the war dead, and, as the Los Angeles Times notes, “no public record was made about the personal toll exacted by Washington’s policies on individual soldiers and their families.” President George W. Bush claimed the policy was to protect the privacy of military families; critics said that the policy was a public relations ploy to avoid bad publicity by personalizing the cost of war. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says that if military families object, the coffins of their loved ones will not be photographed. [Los Angeles Times, 2/26/2009; Associated Press, 2/26/2009]

Entity Tags: Obama administration, Robert M. Gates, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: US Military

Defense Secretary Robert Gates announces that as part of the military’s new policy of allowing the media to cover the return of fallen soldiers to Dover Air Force Base (see February 26, 2009), the Pentagon will now pay for families of those fallen troops to travel to Dover to be present for the return of their family members. Critics of the media policy had noted that some families who were financially unable to be present for the return ceremony might be upset to see the footage of their slain family member on news broadcasts (see February 26, 2009). In a press conference announcing the policy, Gates becomes emotional as he describes his own trip to Dover earlier in the week. “I went to the back of the plane by myself and spent time with each of the transfer cases,” he says, choking up. “I think I’ll stop there.” [CNN, 3/18/2009]

Entity Tags: Robert M. Gates, US Department of Defense

Timeline Tags: US Military

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