Ingrid Norton in the Boston Review:
In late May 2002 the fifty-eight-ton steel column was shrouded with black cloth, covered in an enormous American flag, and lowered onto a specially made truck bed. Its journey was accompanied by a slow procession of emergency workers and officials, a dirge of bagpipes, and trumpeters playing “Taps.” The removal of the column marked the end of eight and a half months of recovery work, in which several billion pounds of debris and human remains were removed from the wreckage of the Twin Towers in Lower Manhattan. At the time, a coalition of victims’ families—WTC Families for a Proper Burial—was protesting the removal of the site’s ash, mud, and metal to the Fresh Kills landfill, where forensics experts poured over it to extricate the remains. Against this backdrop, the ceremony of the column’s removal served as a kind of proxy funeral.
May 2002 was the month that my parents and I moved from uptown Manhattan to a former bank building on Wall Street. We had been lured by the rent abatements that Michael Bloomberg, the new mayor, offered to spur development in Lower Manhattan in the wake of the September 11 attacks. My parents and I sometimes shared the subway with 9/11 clean-up workers, their clothes and boots stained with the ash and dust that would later be found to cause chronic respiratory illness as well as cancer. Our apartment was a block and a half away from the New York Stock Exchange, thought to be a likely future terrorism target. Police toting assault rifles and submachine guns patrolled our block; large metal barriers had been embedded in the street to stop truck bombs.