Meet Darryl Warner — Hero Who Risked His Life To Help Identify 9/11 Victims

By Zuri Anderson

September 10, 2021

Darryl Warner.
Photo: CUNY/YouTube

Many brave souls put their lives on the line to protect those caught in the mayhem of the September 11 attacks. Hijacked planes crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center (WTC) as well as the Pentagon and a rural Pennsylvania field. Some have paid the ultimate price, while others live to tell the tale.

The United States has honored the heroes of 9/11 every year, but some people get more recognition than others. Americans rarely hear about the Black figures who were instrumental in the initial response.

We're highlighting a New York scientist who spent months working to bring fallen victims home to their loved ones: Darryl Warner.

Warner was working as the chief technician in the gross anatomy lab at the City College of New York prior to 9/11. According to News One, he was the country's only Black diener, a morgue worker. That means he was responsible for finding donor bodies to be used by medical school students.

The chief technician told Diverse Education that he watched the second plane fly into one of the towers from his office window.

"I saw the building on fire, and then I see what looks like a big bird," Warner says. "And then the second building exploded."

Ground Zero Rescue and Recovery
Personal work into the night removing rubble from the World Trade Center in New York on September 23, 2001.
Photo: Getty Images

It didn't take long for Warner to fly into action, too. He first comforted screaming and confused students in the school halls before walking to Bellevue Hospital down the block.

“We waited for the first shipment of bodies to come in. We unloaded the cadavers and put them onto different trailers. First, everyone was in one. Then there was one just for firemen, one for police officers, one for civilians,” he recounted.

For eight long months, Warner would travel to Ground Zero every day to search for victims buried among the debris and dust. He worked tirelessly to identify human remains at the NYC Medical Examiner's Office so their loved ones could get some closure from the horrific event.

He also shared his harrowing experience with the City University of New York in a 2010 interview. You can watch it below:

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