New York — Marking an end to eight months of digging, removing and grieving, Mayor Michael Bloomberg Thursday announced a ceremony to officially close the cleanup of the former World Trade Center site.
At 10:29 a.m. on May 30 the minute that the first tower collapsed onto the streets of Lower Manhattan an honor guard will place an empty stretcher onto an ambulance, lift a lone steel beam onto a flatbed truck and see off the "last loads" of debris.
"This is a symbolic end ... to the process and a way to say thank you," Bloomberg said at a packed news conference.
The cleanup has gone far faster than was expected in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. Some officials had predicted it might take 18 months to clear the rubble.
But the question of what will replace the twin towers has proven far more contentious. Agencies and politicians from former mayor Rudolph Giuliani to Mayor Bloomberg to the governors of New York and New Jersey have vied to control the rebuilding.
And there has been persistent grumbling that the planning has gone too slowly New York Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Cuomo this week said Gov. George Pataki (R) had not paid enough attention to the details of redevelopment.
No mention was made of these problems at Thursday's press conference, where Bloomberg and Pataki showered compliments on each other and insisted that every agency of government was cooperating.
"This is an example of everything that is good about New York, when people want to work together," Bloomberg said.
It took workers a combined 3.1 million hours to clean up and cart out more than 100,000 truckloads of debris. After May 30, workers and FBI agents will continue to comb through the debris, which is stored at a landfill.