Governor George E. Pataki inspects the aftermath at Ground Zero. Photo: Lester Milman
Over the hours and days after 9/11, activity at Ground Zero quickly turned from a rescue effort to recovering the remains of the lost, the possessions of both the dead and the living, and crime scene evidence. At the same time, a discreet recovery operation was underway at the Fresh Kills facility on Staten Island. It was at this facility, where teams worked long tedious hours at a disheartening task, that a major, but largely untold, part of the story of September 11 happened.
By nightfall on September 11, Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, with approval from Governor George E. Pataki—decided to reopen the Fresh Kills facility, giving it a crime scene designation so that it could receive what remained of the World Trade Center. Closed since March 2001, the Fresh Kills facility, whose Dutch-derived name means “freshwater stream,” was reopened just after midnight.
By 2:00 a.m. on September 12, trucks began to arrive with loads of steel and solid material from Ground Zero. New York Police Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation Evidence Response Teams arrived in the early morning hours to begin the thorough inspection of the materials and take on a threefold mission: find as many human remains as possible, recover personal effects, and search for evidence from the terrorists.