On May 30th, New York City reached a turning point in its physical and emotional rebuilding following the tragedy of September 11th. The ceremony that was held marked the end of the recovery process at the World Trade Center site. The traditional ringing of the bell to signify a fallen firefighter began the ceremony at exactly 10:29 a.m. ‒ the time marked the fall of the last piece of steel after the collapse of the second tower. An empty stretcher was carried out and driven away by an ambulance to symbolize the friends, colleagues, and loved ones who we have so far been unable to find. Also, the last remaining piece of the Twin Towers ‒ a 58-ton steel column wrapped in the American flag ‒was transported out of the site. The ceremony was a solemn and symbolic way to mark the transformation of the World Trade Center site ‒ from a place where we could only look back to a place where we can also start to look forward and begin the process of renewal.
Undoubtedly, New Yorkers will take much of their inspiration for the rebuilding from the people who have been working at the World Trade Center site since September 11th. The ceremony on May 30th was intended to honor the herculean efforts of these workers. Under the most emotionally grueling of circumstances, firefighters, police officers and paramedics paid tribute to our fallen heroes through the grace and dignity by which they sought to find them. Working side by side with New York City's emergency services personnel, workers also completed one of the biggest construction projects in the history of the world. They removed 1.6 million tons of debris at a fraction of the cost and in half the time originally estimated, and all accomplished without even one serious injury taking place. Just as the heroes of 9/11 gave us the strength to go on after the attacks, these men and women have given us an example of the courage and determination New Yorkers will need to rebuild.
The ringing of the FDNY bell at the ceremony reminded me what the poet John Donne once wrote: "Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind...and therefore, never send to know for whom the bell tolls ‒ it tolls for thee." For me this means that all New Yorkers must now commit themselves to honoring the memory of those we lost by rebuilding a Lower Manhattan they would be proud of.