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NYC Chief Medical Examiner During 9/11 Dies
Former New York City chief medical examiner Dr. Charles Hirsch, who led the effort to identify the thousands of victims of the World Trade Center terrorist attacks, died Friday at age 79.
Hirsch died in Westwood, N.J. from complications of a number of illnesses. His death was announced by New York Mayor Bill De Blasio's office, The New York Times reported.
Hirsch served as the city's chief medical examiner from 1989 to 2013. When the two jetliners struck the World Trade Center towers on Sept 11, 2001, Hirsch and six aides raced downtown to create a temporary morgue.
When the North Tower collapsed, Hirsch was thrown to the ground and broke all his ribs. He returned to the medical examiner's headquarters to begin the challenge of identifying the 2,753 victims of the terrorist attack.
His original goal was to identify 70 percent (about 2,000 of the victims), but Hirsch later said many of the remains were cremated in the attack or in fires that continued for months, The Times reported.
By the time Hirsch retired, 1,634 (59 percent) of the victims had been identified.
He was involved in a number of other high-profile cases during his time as the city's chief medical examiner.
"He treated every anonymous citizen of New York City, every employee and every politician the same way -- with respect, dignity and dedication to getting the job done with scientific and medical excellence, the utmost professionalism and great compassion," Dr. Barbara Sampson, the city's current chief medical examiner and Hirsch's former deputy, said in an email to The Times.
"He was able to explain the most complex topic to a medical student, to a jury or to a grieving family member with ease," she added.
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