|Last Standing Girder
at WTC Removed
Tue May 28, 9:42 PM ET
By SARA KUGLER,
Associated Press Writer
The last steel beam left standing at
the World Trade Center site was cut down
Tuesday evening in the first of a series
of ceremonies marking the end of the
sorrowful, 8-month cleanup.
The 30-foot girder survived when the twin
towers collapsed into a mountain of 1.8
million tons of rubble Sept. 11. For
months it was covered by debris, but as
the pile shrank the column was revealed,
still standing where it was erected when
the south tower was built three decades
During the last few months, workers topped
it with a flag and covered the sides with
spray-painted messages and photographs of
"It means a lot to people - it's like
a flag, which is a piece of cloth, but it
represents our country and an idea. The
idea of the beam is our strength, our
resilience," said Richard Streeter,
who has operated an excavator at the site
since Sept. 12.
Hundreds of construction workers who have
labored at the site watched as the column
was severed with a torch, draped with a
flag and a wreath and placed onto a
flatbed truck. Some workers wrote messages
on the girder, while others touched it as
if it were a coffin.
"The construction workers who have
dedicated themselves to this effort are on
the verge of completing an enormous job,
and in many ways this is their night to
reflect and remember," Mayor Michael
The ceremony was the first of three
planned for construction workers, rescue
workers and families in a gradual farewell
to the round-the-clock recovery operation.
"It was so big, you thought it would
never end," Bill Harris, a
50-year-old construction worker from Pearl
River, N.Y., said about the cleanup.
On Thursday, the beam will be removed from
the site in a procession past an honor
guard of police officers and firefighters.
It will be put into storage and might be
used someday in a memorial.
"The beam means more to the
construction workers because they put
their heart and soul into cleaning this
up," said fire Lt. John Keenan of
Ladder 10, which is across the street from
the trade center site.
The ceremony, organized by the city, will
begin at 10:29 a.m., the moment the second
of the towers crumbled.
A Fire Department bell will ring the
signal for a fallen firefighter, after
which a stretcher with a folded flag will
be carried out of the site, honoring the
victims whose remains have not been found.
To accommodate those who could not attend
the ceremony in the middle of the work
week, victims' families have planned their
own service at ground zero on Sunday. The
city has issued permits for the event.
Of the 2,823 people killed in the attack,
the remains of 1,092 have been identified.
But nearly 20,000 body parts have been
recovered, and the medical examiner
expects to continue identification work
for at least eight more months.
At the site on Tuesday, "everybody's
pretty somber, because we've been doing
this for almost nine months and we don't
want to leave," said Port Authority
police Lt. Mark Winslow. "But we did
all we could here."
Thursday's ceremony is expected to draw
thousands and was intended for city
officials, ground zero workers and
victims' families. Still, some families
were unhappy that Mayor Michael Bloomberg
planned it for a weekday.
Several family groups had asked Bloomberg
to schedule the service on a weekend, so
that work and school would not be
disrupted. But the mayor said the city did
not want the ceremony to conflict with
Jennie Farrell, whose brother died in the
attack, wrote to Bloomberg on behalf of
the families, saying the ceremony should
at least be held on "a day that will
not add to the nightmare we live in every
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