Remains of 11 firefighters recovered at WTC
New York Times News Service
March 12, 2002 20:30:00

NEW YORK - The remains of at least 11 firefighters and an unknown number of civilians were uncovered at the World Trade Center site on Tuesday in what was the biggest find of victims in weeks. The discoveries came as crews finally dug into the former lobby of the south tower, one of the few sections at ground zero yet to be fully cleared.

The repeated discovery of remains - several of them firefighters from Ladder 4, a Midtown Manhattan company - was far from a surprise, as recovery crews in the last week have started to remove what had been a temporary roadway that passed over the footprint of the south tower.

For months, firefighters had suspected many of their colleagues might be buried in this southern section of the trade center site. The south tower was the first to fall, meaning firefighters who were assembled in the lobby, on the sidewalk, on the adjacent street, as well as those trying to help rescue victims in the lower floors, had little notice before the tower came down.

But only now that a more permanent steel bridge has been installed at the site to allow construction trucks to drive in and out of the pit could the demolition crews start to remove the makeshift road and pull out bodies that had been compressed for six months underneath the debris.

"When they built the road there in the first place, people were cringing, as we knew what was underneath," said James Spollen, a fire department spokesman.

The identities of the firefighters were not released, but Ladder 4 was twice called to the scene to salute their fallen colleagues, as bodies, draped in American flags, were carried slowly up the new metal ramp and placed in waiting ambulances.

"You feel good, deep down, that you are doing something for their families," said Battalion Chief Andrew F. Richter, who helps supervise the recovery effort at ground zero. "But you are angry as well. It reminds us of why we are down here in the first place."

Unlike the civilian victims, the remains of the firefighters were often easier to identify because of gear they were wearing that at least indicated which fire company they were stationed at. But fire officials were reluctant to disclose any identities until a formal confirmation had been made and family members had been notified.