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Nothing is taken for granted by workers at ground zero



Published: Mon, February 4, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Nearly five months after two airliners rammed the twin towers of the World Trade Center, remarkable stories are emerging about the efforts of thousands of persons -- both paid and volunteer -- who are working in the rubble at ground zero and at a landfill and scrap yards where debris is being taken.

These are stories that illustrate an extraordinary level of respect for those who died in the collapse of the towers and an inspirational concern for the families of those who died and, also, for the people who escaped the buildings on September 11.

A Washington Post story that appeared in Saturday's Vindicator told of workers at the scene even now meticulously sifting through dirt in a search for human remains. Positive identification of the victims brings closure for their families.

On ABC's "Nightline" program Friday, Ted Koppel, reported on efforts being made at the Fresh Kills Landfill in Staten Island to sort through the debris brought there from the Trade Center.

More than 100 tons of debris -- about two-thirds of the anticipated total -- has been removed from ground zero. Steel, concrete and vehicles are set aside, but every load of dirt brought to the landfill is sifted by machine. Workers standing along a conveyor belt retrieve personal items of every sort. And despite the best efforts of workers back at ground zero, some human remains are found at the Staten Island site.

Lofty goal: Wallets, identification cards of various kinds, jewelry, desktop decorations -- all are being catalogued and stored with a goal of returning them to surviving owners or to the next of kin of those who died.

Meanwhile, The New York Times reported Saturday that structural engineers are combing through mountains of steel beams taken from ground zero in an effort to save some before they are sent to recyclers. They mark for storage those beams that show unusual stress marks or other signs that might help investigators explain why the towers collapsed as they did.

As Koppel noted, it is hard to imagine another nation duplicating the efforts of New York City and the United States in cleaning up the World Trade Center site. Few would have the resources even if they had the inclination.

But the clean up effort is being conducted in a way that shows that those who suffered and died September 11 are not anonymous victims. The humanity of each is recognized every day by the thousands of persons who perform the unpleasant-yet-rewarding task of clearing the rubble of buildings that once defined the New York skyline.

America does not forget its dead and wounded. It honors them.




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