Remains of Sole Belgian Victim of World Trade Center Attack Are Identified

By David W. Dunlap New York Times

Paola Braut held a photograph of her son, Patrice, during a memorial service at the World Trade Center this year on September 11. CreditPool photo by Justin Lane

Paola Braut held a photograph of her son, Patrice, during a memorial service at the World Trade Center this year on September 11. CreditPool photo by Justin Lane

Patrice Braut. Among the hundreds of nameless who repose next to the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, there is now a name.

Remains of Mr. Braut, the only Belgian citizen to die at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, have been positively identified by the office of the chief medical examiner of New York City.

It is the first such identification since May, when 7,930 unidentified human remains were transferred to a repository adjoining the museum at bedrock, behind a wall bearing an inscription from Virgil: “No day shall erase you from the memory of time.”

In perfect theory, the repository will be empty one day, given future advances in forensic science. All of the remains will be connected to individuals, and the victims’ families will at least have the cold comfort of certainty.

But the repository, under the charge of the medical examiner and not the memorial museum, will probably always be needed. Some families, for instance, have chosen not to receive their relatives’ remains. And there may come a point when the limits of DNA testing — by far the greatest identification tool — are reached.

For now, Mr. Braut is the 1,639th trade center victim identified out of the 2,753 [sic – 2,749] people regarded as “missing” by the medical examiner, which has nonetheless issued 2,750 death certificates. (Three people died of their injuries outside New York City.)

Ten years ago, Mr. Braut’s parents, Paola and Michel, flew to New York from Brussels on the occasion of the third anniversary of the attack, “in search of fading connections to Patrice, their 31-year-old son and only child,” as The New York Times reported.

“They were looking for the relief that might come from wandering the streets and mingling with the crowds in the city where their son had lived and died,” The Times said, “from standing on the same spot where, 97 stories up, in the offices of Marsh & McLennan, he had evaporated into thin air on that crisp fall day, leaving behind not even a microscopic glimmer of DNA.”

A photograph of Ms. Braut holding a picture of Patrice, taken by Justin Lane, was among the most emblematic, touching and well-circulated images of this year’s memorial ceremony.

A day earlier, she learned that city scientists had finally found that microscopic glimmer.

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