Nykiah Morgan talks about her mother, Dorothy, who was recenty identified as the 1,646th victim of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.  Credit: Newsday / Thomas Ferrara/Thomas Ferrara

It had been 20 years since the remains of Dorothy Morgan were lost in the rubble of the World Trade Center, buried under tons of steel and stone at Ground Zero as her family waited.

But after painstaking DNA work by the city's chief medical examiner, officials announced Tuesday that the agonizing wait was over.

The 47-year-old Hempstead grandmother became the 1,646th victim of the 9/11 attacks to be identified.

Her family was astounded and perplexed about how to memorialize their mother's remains. The city years ago gave her an urn with some ashes from Ground Zero, but this is a new situation.

Nykiah Morgan, in her Westbury home, holds a photo of her...

Nykiah Morgan, in her Westbury home, holds a photo of her mother, Dorothy Morgan.   Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

"It was surprising, shocking," Morgan's daughter, Nykiah Morgan of Westbury, said about learning the news.

Officials at the medical examiner’s office briefed her on how to claim the remains, pick a funeral home and decide what to do next. Morgan said she wasn’t planning a funeral.

"It is a lot to take in," she said. "Twenty years later I was not expecting this kind of phone call."

She said local detectives last month initially spoke with her son — she was at the work at the time — and then followed up with her. She learned that her mother’s remains had been identified through DNA testing.

The identification of Dorothy Morgan and a man whose family did not wish to have him publicly identified were the first new identities to be made since 2019, said Dr. Barbara A. Sampson, chief medical examiner of the city.

In all there were 2,753 victims in the attacks. Some families opt not to be notified, while others do.

Morgan's brother, Cecil Burke of Atlanta, said being notified so long after the terror attacks brought back old memories and emotions.

"It is bittersweet, but it is nice to know that they have not given up," said Burke, 58.

Morgan had worked in the north tower for Marsh McLennan as a broker.

In a statement Tuesday announcing the new identifications, Sampson said her office would continue to push the boundaries of science to make future identifications.

Sampson noted the recent adoption of next-generation sequencing technology by her office promises to result in more identifications.

NGS technology has been used successfully by the U.S. military to identify Korean War dead whose DNA after so many decades had been degraded and not able to be identified with conventional DNA procedures.

Tens of thousands of remains recovered from Ground Zero still remain to be put through additional testing.

"Twenty years ago, we made a promise to the families of World Trade Center victims to do whatever it takes for as long as it takes to identify their loved ones, and with these two new identifications, we continue to fulfill that sacred obligation," Sampson said. "No matter how much time passes since September 11, 2001, we will never forget, and we pledge to use all the tools at our disposal to make sure all those who were lost can be reunited with their families."

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