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Ground Zero Cleanup Goes Well

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The daunting job of cleaning up the ruins of the World Trade Center was supposed to take a year and run as much as $7 billion, but workers now expect to remove the last of the rubble by summer at a cost estimated to be closer to $1 billion.

The city and work crews say the cleanup has gone faster than expected due to longer shifts and a prevailing attitude that victims' families deserve their relentless labor. Workers also credit the speedy progress to a mild winter.

Still, they must pick through the debris 24 hours a day — sometimes in snow and rain.

Plans For A
Pentagon Memorial

The first official memorial to the victims of the Sept. 11 attack on the Pentagon will be dedicated next month. The memorial will be located inside a busy section of the Pentagon.

The Washington Post reported it will say "American Heroes" - and under that, there will be a declaration that says "A Grateful Nation Remembers." The memorial will list the names of the 184 people who died in the attack on the nation's military headquarters.

The memorial will also feature a book with pictures of each of the victims and photographs of the devastation. The memorial cost about $75,000.

"Don't anybody fall down, don't anybody get hurt tonight," cautioned a fire chief as a recent night shift began. The temperature dipped below 30 degrees on this evening, as crews worked in what would have been the area underneath the Marriott World Trade Center. Above their heads was the gaping mouth of a subway tunnel.

Scattered among unrecognizable debris were mundane and oddly untouched office items — a box of ball point pens, some spilling out, leaking blue ink into the ashy dirt. Papers peeked out of red file folders, flapping in the chilly breeze. A pink invoice from a 16th floor office listed a payment for $193.26.

Since the recovery effort began underground last month, workers have toiled in the pit that once was the trade center's seven-story basement. Hundreds of trucks carry rubble out of the crater each day, more than 1 million tons in all now.

The job has entered its final phase as crews lay the foundation for a 500-foot-long metal ramp along the western edge of the pit to replace the two that are now on site — ramps made out of debris and topped with dirt.

The debris "presumably contains remains," said Kenneth Holden, commissioner of the city's Design and Development Corporation.

After the cleanup shifted to areas below the fallen twin towers, pockets of vitims' remains were found, many in stairwells and other spots that were partially protected as steel beams fell like pickup sticks.

At the foot of one of the muddy ramps, giant orange excavators claw through the ruins, setting down piles for firefighters to pick through with hand tools as they search for remains. Of the nearly 2,900 victims, 684 have been matched to remains by the medical examiner.

During the next five months, Holden said, the biggest challenge will be coordinating the many operations beginning to creep back into the area, such as the transit authority's work to rebuild a damaged subway tunnel. Above ground, the developer who holds the lease on the property wants to build a group of smaller structures and a memorial to the victims.

"As the site gets considered to be less and less a disaster area, and more and more a reconstruction area, what's happening is more and more people want to move back — which is great, as it should be," Holden said.

By SARA KUGLER
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