Hawaii scientist helped bring closure to families of victims of - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Hawaii scientist helped bring closure to families of victims of 9/11 Pentagon attack

(Image: Robert Mann) (Image: Robert Mann)
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Five terrorists killed 184 people when they hijacked and crashed American Airlines flight 77 into the Pentagon on Sept.11, 2001.

Forensic anthropologist Robert Mann dealt with the aftermath.

"You never forget it and I don't want to go through it again," he said.

Mann was working at the Central Identification Laboratory at Hickam Air Force Base when he and a small team of anthropologists were summoned to Dover Air Force Base, the site of a makeshift mortuary.

"As soon as we get to the mortuary we can smell decomposition. We can smell jet fuel. It's like part of the Pentagon had been moved to Delaware," he said.

For eight days, Mann and other scientists examined human remains from victims who could not be easily identified.

"We're dealing with body parts, fragments, a finger, a hand or arm, a foot, anything, anything that can come off the body," he said.

He remembers seeing wedding rings on severed hands and watches on wrists, and tables covered with the victims' belongings.

"You're looking at sweatshirts. There's prescription vials. There's melted phones. There's keys," he said.

Mann and the other forensic anthropologists and identification experts who worked on the Pentagon site managed to identify all but five of the victims from the Pentagon and the airplane.

The material artifacts were returned to relatives.

"It's the head and the heart going together," Mann said. "The head is the mental part of the science. The heart of course is these things that link the loved ones with their missing."

Mann has worked on many cases.

He identified serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer's first victim. He identified remains of U.S. soldiers killed in the Vietnam War, and remains of people who died in the 2004 Tsunami in the Indian Ocean.

The Pentagon terror attack was different.

"You can't experience this, you can't do it without somehow being affected by it," he said.


Nine people with Hawaii ties died in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington:

  • Michael Collins, 38, who dreamed of retiring in Hawaii with his wife, Lissa.
  • Patricia Colodner, 39, who was described as a “wonderful, devoted mother" by her husband.
  • Georgine Corrigan, 56, a Hawaii Kai collectibles dealer and doting grandmother.
  • Maile Hale, 26, the 1993 valedictorian at Kaiser High School. “She was what everybody wants their child to be,” said her mother.
  • Heather Ho, 32, a Punahou School graduate and award-winning pastry chef at Windows on the World at the World Trade Center.
  • Richard Keane, 54, who is remembered by family for his warmth and love of a good story.
  • David Laychak, 40, who was among 125 Pentagon employees and contractors who died on 9/11.
  • Richard Y.C. Lee, 34, whose office at the World Trade Center was filled with photos of his young son.
  • Christine Snyder, a 32-year-old arborist for the Outdoor Circle who had been married for just three months when she died.

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