Rescue and Recovery Workers Honored as Permanent Dedication Is Announced

A girl in a pink sweatshirt ties a blue ribbon on a railing surrounding the Last Column. Dozens of other blue ribbons have already been tied on the railing.
The ceremony concluded with the solemn tradition of tying blue ribbons at the Last Column. Photo by Jin Lee, 9/11 Memorial

On the 15th anniversary of the completion of the rescue and recovery efforts at Ground Zero, the 9/11 Memorial & Museum honored the brave men and women who served with dedication and selflessness after the attack and announced plans to create a permanent dedication to rescue and recovery workers on the 9/11 Memorial.

More than 600 people gathered by the Last Column in Foundation Hall Tuesday evening to pay tribute to those who took part in the nine-month recovery operations at Ground Zero, which removed 1.8 million tons of material from the World Trade Center site without any fatalities during the operations.  

Three rescue workers -- Jim Gaffney, an ironworker; Tom McHale, a retired Port Authority Police Department detective and an ironworker; and FDNY Lt. Adrienne Walsh -- shared remembrances of the 9/11 attack, the months of painstaking labor that followed and the process of coming to grips with catastrophe 15 years later.

Special attention was paid to the tens of thousands of people who are sick and hundreds who have already died as a result of 9/11-related illnesses, including FDNY Firefighter Ray Pfeifer who died Sunday at the age of 59 after an 8-year battle with cancer. Last year Mayor Bill de Blasio presented Pfeifer with the key to the city for his work on the passing of the Zadroga Act. Pfeifer donated the key to the 9/11 Memorial Museum. 

A moment of silence was held for Pfeifer and all those who lost their lives to 9/11-related illnesses. After a bugler played "Taps," the ceremony concluded with the tradition of tying blue ribbons around the base of the Last Column.   

The solemn ceremony came just hours after 9/11 Memorial & Museum Board Chairman Michael R. Bloomberg, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and board member Jon Stewart announced the development of a permanent dedication to rescue and recovery workers on the Memorial Glade, the grassy clearing on the southwest corner of the 8-acre plaza near the Survivor Tree. The memorial and museum will lead in the planning, design and development of the dedication with the memorial’s architects, including Michael Arad.

The news of the permanent dedication, which will be funded and supported by New York State and Bloomberg Philanthropies, was met with powerful applause from all present at the ceremony. 

For several months, memorial and museum officials have been exploring creating a commemorative space and walkway to recognize rescue and recovery workers. The dedication would expand on existing exhibitions and programming that examine the impact the 9/11 disaster had on the health of those who were exposed, including first responders, workers, survivors, residents and others.

“After the towers fell, and before the dust cloud settled, these remarkably brave men and women risked their lives, and health, as they joined the response and helped start the process of recovery,” 9/11 Memorial & Museum President and CEO Alice M. Greenwald said. “We should always remember what they endured in the aftermath of the attacks as they paved the way for this city and our country to rebuild.”

By 9/11 Memorial Staff

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Bloomberg, Cuomo and Stewart Announce Plans for a Permanent Dedication to 9/11 Rescue and Recovery Workers

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