There are 800,000 unidentified bodies buried on the Long Island Sound’s Hart Island. Fifty-four have been exhumed in an effort to identify the bodies, some of which have been there for decades, and in so doing solve some decades-old missing person cases. The city’s Medical Examiner’s Office learned valuable information about how to better use DNA to identify human remains after working at the World Trade Center in 2001, and they are now applying those lessons to the remains found at Hart Island thanks to a grant from the National Institute of Justice. Investigators are hoping these efforts will not only provide valuable information for missing persons cases gone cold, but also provide some closure for the families of the missing.

Gloria Chait, whose son disappeared in 1972, says of the city’s plan, “You can’t be cynical about this. You have to be realistic and a bit optimistic. You have to understand what kind of suffering goes with a person that disappears. It is immeasurable.” (Photo: Wessex Archaeology/Flickr)