New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has announced that the recovery effort and search for the victims of September 11 terrorist attack at the World Trade Center, will formally be completed and marked with a ceremony at the very same spot called Ground Zero on May 30.
The cleanup, which began with thousands of firefighters and volunteers passing buckets of debris on the giant mound that was the demolished World Trade Center, is coming to an end.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Governor George Pataki say that the last load of wreckage from the destroyed Twin Towers will be removed in a ceremony to mark the completed recovery operation.
Thousands of people affected by the attacks, including victims' relatives, firefighters, police officers and former Mayor Rudy Giuliani are expected to attend. The ceremony will begin with a traditional firefighter signal at the exact time when the second tower collapsed. In addition to carting away the final heap of debris, an empty stretcher draped in an American flag will represent the remains never recovered.
The ceremony will usher in the beginning of the next phase - rebuilding. Mayor Bloomberg says the end of the recovery effort is largely symbolic since rescue workers will continue to sift through pockets of debris and screen for remains.
"A slow transition has been taking place between recovery and renewal," said Mr. Bloomberg. "But we will not stop ever if we find any debris that needs to be sifted through. And we will not forget those that we lost. At the same time we have an obligation to those left behind to continue the rebuilding that has already started."
The cleanup is being completed three months ahead of schedule at a cost of about $750 million.
Mr. Bloomberg says he expects the solemn ceremony to evoke heart-wrenching memories for all New Yorkers, including himself.
Governor Pataki says he will be reminded of relatives of victims he has watched searching for remains at ground zero.
"One of the most emotional thing is to see the fathers standing there and going through the debris, retired firefighters and others who lost their sons or daughters, hoping that their loved ones' remains will be recovered," recalled Mr. Pataki. "And tragically, on May 30, there are going to be a number of them whose lover ones have never have been recovered."
According to city officials, more than 1,000 victims have been identified, many through DNA testing of body parts. More than 2,800 people were killed in the attacks.