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Dateline: Ground Zero Workers, Four Months Later - 2002-02-04


Over four months since terrorist attacks destroyed the World Trade Center towers, killing thousands of people, most New Yorkers have moved on with their lives. On some days, the horrors of September 11 seem almost remote. Yet for those who continue to labor around the clock, the reality of that day can never be ignored. They continue to remove debris from the site, load it onto trucks and barges so the material can be sifted for traces of what once were human beings living their lives. VOA's Adam Phillips talked with workers near "Ground Zero" about their experiences in this Dateline report. A half-kilometer from Ground Zero, freezing drizzle falls on Pier 25 on the Hudson River, coating the ash and grit on the trucks, the cranes, and the waiting barges with a dull grey-black sheen. Already 816,000 metric tons of waste have been transported here from Ground Zero, where the World Trade Centers once stood; loaded onto barges and shipped to the Fresh Kills landfill, two hours down river.

Vinnie Conti, a third generation union truck driver with an elaborate tatoo covering most of his neck and arms, waits to drop another load of steel and rubble. Some weigh 60 tons or more. "Every load is different," he says. "Sometimes it's jammed in there. Some slides right out. So you gotta have your wits about you. ... Sometimes you got big beams. This isn't one of those planned demolition jobs. It fell the way it fell, and that's it." Mr. Conti adds that the psychological weight of this toil is a heavy one, too.

Indeed, many workers here also grieve for the Twin Tower themselves. For Pete Gargagno, this grief has turned to anger. "Oh, I am definitely angry," he said. "It angers me to look down there and not see them anymore. The towers - they were New York! ... They are not there no more ... because of a lunatic."

The excavation and sorting-through of the World Trade Center debris is expected to be completed late this year, many months ahead of schedule.

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