|Somber Tribute at
Trade Center Site
Thu May 30, 1:52 PM ET
By DIEGO IBARGUEN,
Associated Press Writer
NEW YORK (AP) - With the peal of a Fire
Department bell and the departure of an
empty stretcher, the victims of the World
Trade Center's unspeakable horror were
remembered Thursday in a ceremony without
The solemn service marking the end of 8
months of cleanup began with a bell
sounding out the 5-5-5-5 fire code - four
sets of five rings, in memory of 343
fallen firefighters lost at ground zero.
The first bell rang at precisely 10:29
a.m., the time that the second tower
collapsed in a screech of twisting steel
and falling concrete Sept. 11.
The empty, flag-draped stretcher
symbolizing the missing was carried up a
500-foot ramp from the pit where workers
labored around the clock.
The stretcher was loaded into an FDNY
ambulance as a dozen pallbearers saluted.
As the ambulance and a truck carrying the
last beam from the site drove up the ramp,
only the wind and the rumble of vehicles
was audible at times.
The crowd, including people watching from
neighboring buildings, stood mutely during
the grim procession.
The sounds of taps, played by police and
fire buglers, floated across the warm May
morning before bagpipers played
"America the Beautiful."
"This is the closest point I guess I
can get to being with him again,"
said David Bauer III, whose father - a
Cantor Fitzgerald worker - was one of the
more than 1,700 victims for whom no
remains have been identified.
Thousands gathered at the site, now a
seven-story pit and once the basement of
the twin skyscrapers that anchored lower
Manhattan. Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his
predecessor, Rudolph Giuliani, were among
the many public officials at the event.
"It was tough to come here every day
and now it's tough to leave,"
firefighter John Keating said.
As the ceremony concluded, the crowd burst
into spontaneous applause for the parade
of police officers, firefighters and
construction workers exiting ground zero.
Some tossed flowers into the void where
the towers once stood.
"We will never forget," a banner
read. In the crowd, family members held
photographs of their loved ones pressed
over their hearts.
Of the more than 2,800 people killed in
the terrorist attack, remains of 1,102
have been identified. Nearly 20,000 body
parts have been recovered.
City officials said the sifting for body
parts in a landfill and the identification
process will go on for months. Those human
remains that cannot be identified will be
retained, in case new technology someday
makes it possible.
"It's hard to remember on 9/11 with
all of the twisted steel and concrete
...," Bloomberg said earlier on NBC's
"Today" show. "But the fact
of the matter is the people that survived
are the ones that we have to go on. We
have to make sure they do not forget and
that they build for the future."
At the ceremony, a flatbed truck carrying
the trade center's last steel beam
followed the ambulance. The beam stood
until Tuesday night, when it was cut down
during a ceremony for ground zero workers.
The 30-foot column survived when the
towers collapsed into a mountain of 1.8
million tons of rubble. For months it was
buried in debris, but it was revealed as
the rubble disappeared, still standing
where it was planted when the south tower
was built. The beam, set on the truck and
draped with a black cloth, American flag
and bouquet of flowers, was being taken to
a Kennedy Airport hangar for storage.
The unprecedented cleanup effort finished
several months earlier than originally
anticipated and at a fraction of the
estimated cost. But while many victims
have been identified, the end of the
operation leaves numerous others without
their family members' remains.
Several family groups had asked Bloomberg
to schedule Thursday's service on a
weekend, so that work and school schedules
would not be disrupted. The mayor said the
city avoided the weekend so it would not
conflict with religious observances. He
also said May 30 was the traditional date
for Memorial Day.
To accommodate those who could not attend
the ceremony, the family groups have
planned their own service at ground zero
What to do with the site next is under
discussion. Control of the site will
revert from the city to the Port Authority
of New York and New Jersey, which owns the
Last week, the Port Authority and the
Lower Manhattan Development Corp.
announced the choice of architectural firm
Beyer Blinder Belle as the urban planning
consultant. A final plan is supposed to be
chosen by Dec. 1.
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