NEW YORK — Twenty years after a ringing fire bell and a solemn ceremony marked the end of the hellish cleanup effort at ground zero, Gov. Kathy Hochul said Monday that a hole remains in New York’s heart despite the grand redevelopment of the area where the twin towers once rose.
“We will never forget this. Never, ever,” Hochul said of the Sept. 11 attack. “For many, the devastation, the loss occurred on that day: 9/11. But there’s so many who know the bigger story. For 260 days, people showed up here exposed to toxins and contaminants.”
The cleanup was more than merely the removal of nearly 2 million tons of rubble left by the monstrous attack. Thousands of body parts were picked up in the eight-month project, and some led to the identification of victims.
On May 30, 2002, workers hung up their hardhats and put away the black buckets that had been used in the cleanup. The city held a 20-minute, word-free ceremony at 10:29 a.m., the exact time the north tower collapsed 261 days earlier.
Every year since, Hochul noted, the death toll from the terrorist attack has grown as people have succumbed to health complications stemming from exposure to toxic dust at ground zero. On 9/11 alone, 2,763 people perished at the World Trade Center.
“That is what we don’t forget,” Hochul said Monday. “The brave people. The sanitation workers who showed up and had to endure the unthinkable — what they saw.”
“The private contractors,” she continued. “The city agencies. Everybody who showed up and made sure everything that was drawn from this site was honored and placed in a hallowed ground.”
Celebrating the “strength and resiliency” New Yorkers displayed after twisted terrorists plowed two planes into the twin towers, Hochul said their response gave her confidence that the state would rise after the pandemic.
“At one time, this was a gaping hole,” Hochul said in remarks by the leafy park at the 9/11 Memorial, in the shadow of the gleaming One World Trade Center.
“That hole is healed with this beautiful shrine — this place of solemnity,” Hochul said. “But that doesn’t mean the hole in our heart has healed.”