A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

World Trade Center Victims


Q: How many World Trade Center victims were from outside the U.S.?

A: About 21 percent were born outside the U.S., but only 1 percent were residents of foreign countries.

FULL QUESTION

I frequently hear George Bush refer to the "3,000 American citizens" who were killed in the Twin Towers. Recently I heard Hillary Clinton say the same thing.

It is my understanding that people from scores of other countries were among the dead in the rubble on that terrible day. I also know that many undocumented workers died and cannot be traced.

Do you know how many of the dead were actually Americans and how many were citizens from other countries? Thanks.

FULL ANSWER

We could not find an instance where President Bush or Hillary Clinton used the phrase "3,000 American citizens," as our questioner says; however, Bush and several politicians have said "3,000 Americans" were killed in the September 11 attacks.

Specifically in New York, a little under 3,000 people died in the attack on the World Trade Center. A year after the incident, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 2,726 death certificates had been issued and estimated that another 93 deaths had occurred, bringing the total to 2,819 persons.

Of those issued death certificates, 1 percent (27 people) were foreign nationals from eight different countries. Also, about 21 percent (568 people) were born outside of the U.S.

We do not know how many victims were illegal immigrants. However, it is certainly plausible that a certain percentage of the unaccounted 93 victims were illegal immigrants whose families did not want to step forward and request a death certificate from the government. The CDC noted that the figures were preliminary, "because some families have not yet requested death certificates, and investigations into certain requests for certificates are ongoing." In fact, the CDC’s count does not quite match a more recent number from New York City’s Office of Chief Medical Examiner, which says 2,750 death certificates were issued for those who died in the World Trade Center attack, as of Dec. 2007.

– Justin Bank 

Sources

CDC. "Deaths in World Trade Center Terrorist Attacks — New York City, 2001." Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 11 Sept 2002.

New York City, Office Of Chief Medical Examiner. World Trade Center Operational Statistics, 10 Dec. 2007.