Hard Days at WTC
The crews at
Ground Zero are finally at the bottom of
the World Trade Center's vast basement,
sifting through the last heaps of debris.
And now, with less than a month to go,
many workers are pausing for the first
time to reflect not only on the attacks,
but on the accomplishments of 242 days at
The total hours, roster of workers, tally
of injuries and other startling statistics
related to the unprecedented recovery and
cleanup effort detail a story that is
tragic but also inspiring.
"Obviously, no one anticipated prior
to 8:46 on the morning of the 11th that
the entire city would be focused on the
collapsed World Trade Center," said
Kenneth Holden, commissioner of the city
Design and Construction Department, which
oversees the disaster site. "We have
achieved what many thought was impossible
on the afternoon of the 11th. That is,
namely, that by Memorial Day, all the
debris at the Trade Center will be cleaned
out from lower Manhattan."
Closing Ceremony in Works
Mayor Bloomberg announced yesterday that
the relentless recovery effort will be
declared over in three to four weeks. He
said he expects to reveal the date of the
official closing ceremony in a few days.
A meeting of victims' families and state
and city officials is to take place next
week to finalize details of the last
Since Sept. 11, 19,435 body parts have
been pulled from the ruined 16 acres. The
search promises to be meticulous to the
"Most of the debris has been gone
through once, but they continue to find
more remains," said retired
Firefighter Lee Ielpi, whose firefighter
son died in the attacks. "Until all
the debris has been removed, it will
continue to be a recovery effort - not a
Ielpi has been at Ground Zero nearly every
day since the terrorist-piloted jets hit
the twin towers. At the peak of the
operation, 3,500 uniformed and civilian
workers toiled daily amid the smoldering
wreckage and an equal number labored on
the immediate perimeter.
"Every able body in the Fire
Department has worked down there, whether
it be for an hour, a day or longer,"
said FDNY spokesman David Billig.
The mountains of mangled steel and
pulverized concrete have been reduced to
piles that can be combed for the smallest
body parts. Some 1,590,227 tons of steel
and debris have been carted away.
About 700 workers, cops and firefighters
are now at Ground Zero each day.
This month, 110 body parts have been
recovered. No bodies have been found since
late April, and 1,796 victims remain lost.
"Everything's gone amazingly
fast," said glazier James Healy as he
helped rebuild the Winter Garden atrium
yesterday. "It doesn't look anything
like it did on the first day. We all
worked very hard and did the best job we
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