Sifting Through the WTC Rubble
'Ground Zero' Effort Nears End, Search Continues at Fresh Kills
Listen to Chris Arnold's report.
View a gallery of photos from Fresh Kills landfill.
May 30, 2002 -- On Thursday, a ceremony at "Ground Zero" -- where the former World Trade Center once towered over lower Manhattan -- will mark the end of the rescue and recovery effort launched after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
After nearly nine months, workers have recovered tens of thousands of personal items from the site. Getting those items returned to the families of the victims remains an important challenge.
NPRís Chris Arnold went to the Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island, where police officers and FBI agents continue searching the last of the rubble as itís brought over from the World Trade Center site.
The search has been methodical and exhaustive. The rubble is spread out and inspected twice at Ground Zero. Then itís brought to Fresh Kills by barge and truck, where the clumps of tangled metal and concrete are broken down using heavy machinery and vibrating belts.
Teams of officers and agents watch as the rubble is sifted down to a fine ashy silt that they then rake through by hand.
Larger items, such as destroyed fire trucks and other vehicles, are torn apart by a machine called a shearer. Hundreds of vehicles have been hauled to Fresh Kills, most recovered from the collapsed parking lots under the World Trade Center.
"We're still finding human remains, even to this day," says Richard Marx, the FBIís Special Agent in Charge at the landfill. "We are constantly recovering personal effects -- we found a wedding ring this past weekend."
Marx says the recovery effort has turned up more than 50,000 personal items. But often, without an inscription or name, itís hard to know who they belonged to -- and officials have not yet decided how to let the victims' family members sort through the items.
The job at Fresh Kills is almost over, but some have mixed feelings about it. "In a lot of ways, it will be hard to stop, because you know you haven't recovered everyone," says Port Authority Police Lt. Brian Tierney, who knew each of the 37 Port Authority officers who died on Sept. 11. "It'll be hard to say what we've done is as much as we can do -- it'll never be enough."
Browse more NPR stories on Fresh Kills landfill.
The New York City government information site on Fresh Kills landfill has 360-degree views of the site and plans for its eventual closure and restoration.