Oral History Archives

During the nine-month recovery and cleanup operation at the World Trade Center, many thousands of individuals transformed what some called "the pile" – a scene of mass destruction dominated by a vast mountain of tangled steel – into an excavated pit reaching 70 feet below ground. Many who worked on the recovery effort in different ways have shared stories with the Museum about their painstaking search for remains of the missing and the grueling efforts to remove tons of material from the site.

The jobs held by the following individuals reflect their positions as of September 11, 2001.

Ed Walsh – New York City Fire Department

A New York City Fire Department firefighter with Squad 41, 9/11 responder and Ground Zero recovery worker, Ed Walsh recalls what the pile looked like and describes personal objects he found while searching for his missing co-workers.

John Napolitano – New York Police Department

John Napolitano is a former police officer and father of 9/11 victim John Napolitano Jr., FDNY Rescue 2. He describes searching for his son, whose whereabouts were then unknown, at Ground Zero on the night of 9/11.

William Keegan – Port Authority Police Department
Port Authority Police Department Lt. William Keegan served as night-shift supervisor at Ground Zero. He recalls what working on the pile meant to him and his commitment to the families of those killed at the World Trade Center.

Mike Burton – New York City Department of Design and Construction
Deputy Commissioner of New York City Department of Design and Construction Mike Burton describes the logistics of formalizing recovery and cleanup operations at Ground Zero and marvels at the power and resilience of the human spirit.

Pia Hofmann – Engineer
A member of Local 14, International Union of Operating Engineers, Pia Hoffman operated a crane at Ground Zero. She describes her commitment to finding the missing and recalls the hard work of volunteers.