NEW YORK -- Tradesmen from four key union locals cut down the final surviving beam from the World Trade Center's south tower Tuesday night in a solemn ceremony at Ground Zero.
As night fell on the site, the 30-foot-tall, TK-ton beam was wrapped in a black shroud, lowered via crane, placed on a flatbed truck and stored underneath a steel bridge. .
Three hours after workers began cutting the beam, Tuesday, representatives of Dockbuilders Local 1456, Ironworkers Local 40 and Laborers Locals 731 and 79 each cut the four remaining corners, and men from Carpenters union Local 608 draped the shroud over the beam.
Twin lines of police officers and firefighters lined up on the steel bridge and saluted the construction workers as they walked out of the pit. Earlier in the day, welders burned the names of the different locals and police and fire units into the beam, workers said.
For the construction workers who labored for eight difficult, heartbreaking months at the site, the event was viewed as a final step.
"The ceremony is designed to give the guys closure, and I hope it goes a long way towards doing just that," said Rick Ostrander of the dockbuilders, who has worked at Ground Zero since Sept. 12.
"To me, I just feel like it's all over now," said Dante Rufo, a member of Timbermen Local 1536 who has been working on the rebuilding of the subway tunnel. "It's sad, but it's over with, and they got to start rebuilding."
Officials said remains of 1,092 of the 2,823 people killed on Sept. 11 have been identified. The city Medical Examiner's office continues to try to identify 20,000 body parts that have been recovered.
Tuesday night's ceremony illustrated that what began as one event signaling the official end of the recovery effort has evolved into three events, each with a slightly different constituency and purpose.
Thursday, a large, more public event attended by many elected officials and other dignitaries will begin at 10:29 a.m., the time of the collapse of the North Tower on Sept. 11.
Sunday, a third event will be held, one that has been organized for the families of victims.
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