The city's medical examiner will host the area's first Missing Persons Day on Saturday, hoping to help families gain closure and identify some of hundreds of bodies still unknown.
The ME's office has more than 1,200 unidentified bodies buried on Hart Island, an small island off the coast of the Bronx that serves as the city's public cemetery, said Julie Bolcer, a spokeswoman for the office.
The first-ever Missing Persons Day hopes to reunite people with these bodies using DNA or other evidence, such as dental records. The effort has been successful in other jurisdictions, like a statewide day in Albany, Bolcer said.
"Primarily what we want to do is raise awareness around this issue," Bolcer said. "We are hoping to connect families, if they choose voluntarily, with our identification services."
About five years ago, Bolcer said, the office started collecting identification information from the unclaimed bodies they had using the more advanced techniques available. Now, she said, they need the other half of the puzzle.
"We have information from the unidentified, but what we are lacking is information from the families because you need to make that connection," she said. "We're trying to make the match."
Blood relatives are encouraged to attend for DNA purposes, she said. Otherwise, objects that belonged to the missing loved one that may have DNA on it, like a toothbrush or razor, is very helpful.
The event, in partnership with several agencies, including the NYPD Missing Persons Unit, NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, is from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner's Hirsch Building: 421 East 26th Street, at 1st Avenue. Those looking for more information can call (212) 323-1201.