Wednesday marked 10 years since the formal end of recovery and cleanup efforts at the World Trade Center site.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Governor George Pataki, former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, elected officials, union leaders and about 5,000 of the recovery and relief workers attended a ceremony at the National September 11th Memorial in Lower Manhattan.
In all, workers removed an estimated 1.8 million tons of steel and concrete before they wrapped up recovery and cleanup efforts on May 30, 2002.
Wednesday's tribute included wreath-laying ceremonies, choir performances and an honor guard by the September 11th memorial's reflecting pools. A flag that once hung at the World Trade Center site was also marched past the memorial pools.
Many rescue and relief workers were disappointed they were not able to attend the dedication of the September 11th memorial last year on the 10th anniversary of the attacks.
"Too little too late, I think. They turn around and pushed us a little bit aside," said retired police officer Martin Grillo.
Attendees at the Wednesday ceremony were glad to be reunited with their fellow relief workers.
"If I put it in its little pocket I can get through my day, but on a day like today, when everybody gets together and we remember it together, it can get really emotional," said former recovery worker Dawna Moraz. "I'm very protective of the site, all of us are. We feel like it's our baby, it belongs to us, and while we're excited to see the changes, there's not one of us who wouldn't want to see it like it was before."
Many of the workers have since gotten sick and Wednesday's ceremony came days before many who believe their cancers were caused by their work at the site are due to find out whether they can be treated and compensated from a $4.3 billion fund set aside by Congress.
"They sacrificed their health, their safety, time with their own families, their personal lives, their jobs to be able to come down here and help in the recovery process and not a lot of people are willing to do that," said Tracey Vitchers, a supporter of the workers.
The National September 11th Memorial and Museum has also created an interactive "Ground Zero Recovery Timeline" at 911.memorial.org that shows photographs from the eight-month cleanup effort in Lower Manhattan.
The above photo is courtesy of the Mayor's Office.