- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 29, 2002

NEW YORK (AP) The last steel beam left standing at the World Trade Center site was felled last night in the first of a series of ceremonies marking the end of the sorrowful, 8-month cleanup.
The 30-foot girder survived when the center's two towers collapsed into a mountain of 1.8 million tons of rubble on September 11.
For months, it was covered by debris, but as the pile shrank, the column was revealed, still standing where it was erected when the South Tower was built three decades ago.
During the past few months, workers topped it with a flag and covered the sides with spray-painted messages and photographs of victims.
"It means a lot to people it's like a flag, which is a piece of cloth, but it represents our country and an idea. The idea of the beam is our strength, our resilience," said Richard Streeter, who has operated an excavator at the site since Sept. 12.
Hundreds of construction workers who have labored at the site planned to watch as the column was severed with a cutting torch and draped with a flag and a wreath and placed onto a flatbed truck. Some workers wrote messages on the girder, while others touched it as if it were a coffin.
"The construction workers who have dedicated themselves to this effort are on the verge of completing an enormous job, and in many ways this is their night to reflect and remember," Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said.
The ceremony was the first of three planned for construction workers, rescue workers and families in a gradual farewell to the round-the-clock recovery operation.
"It was so big, you thought it would never end," Bill Harris, a 50-year-old construction worker from Pearl River, N.Y., said about the cleanup.
The beam will be removed from the site tomorrow in a procession past an honor guard of police officers and firefighters. It will be put into storage and might be used someday in a memorial.


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