With an empty stretcher bearing a folded American flag that represented the 1,700 victims whose bodies were never found, New York City marked the end of the recovery of human remains and removal of thousands of tons of rubble from the World Trade Center site. There were no speeches at the ceremony, held nearly nine months after two hijacked planes slammed into the twin towers and killed 2,823 people. Instead, the silence was broken by the sobs of relatives, and the peal of fire department bells at 10:29 a.m., the precise time on Sept. 11 when the second tower collapsed in a pile of broken steel and concrete.
All that now remains is a seven-storeydeep hole. Police and fire department pipers and drummers marched behind the
stretcher, borne by an ambulance up a ramp from the bottom. The ambulance was also accompanied by a truck bearing the last steel girder from the site. (In the months after the tragedy, recovery workers hauled 1.8 million tons of debris—the equivalent of 20 Golden Gate bridges—to a nearby landfill.) “It is the end of the cleanup effort, but it also reminds us of all the people who perished here,” said Leslaine Lambert, a 44-year-old ironworker who was part of the recovery effort.
Sept. 11, meanwhile, continued to reverberate. FBI Director Robert Mueller acknowledged that the bureau failed to recognize potential clues to terrorist activity before the attacks. And he admitted that the FBI was not aggressive enough in investigating Zacarías Moussaoui, a French
citizen of Moroccan descent who was arrested in Minnesota on Aug. 16 after authorities became suspicious of his conduct at a flight school. Officials now say Moussaoui was the missing 20th hijacker.
To help the FBI detect further attacks, the Bush administration gave the bureau greater leeway in spying on Americans. Undercover agents will be able to enter public places, attend general gatherings and monitor the Internet to investigate terrorism even when they are not pursuing a particular case. Under the previous guidelines, FBI agents had to offer evidence of criminal activity to get approval for such surveillance. The new guidelines drew sharp criticism from civil libertarians. But, said Attorney General John Ashcroft, the old and restrictive guidelines had, in many instances, barred FBI field agents “from taking the initiative to detect and prevent future terrorist attacks.” d]
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