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13 More Bodies Recovered at World Trade Center Site

Dead: Remains of 10 firefighters and three civilians are pulled from an underground pocket. Workers hope for 'more closure' in the new year.


NEW YORK — In a city where the contrast between joy and tragedy has been sharpened by the events of Sept. 11, New Year's Day proved to be no exception.

Only hours after hundreds of thousands of revelers celebrated the beginning of 2002 in Times Square, firefighters pulled the bodies of 10 of their comrades and three civilians from the rubble of the World Trade Center, it was revealed Wednesday.

The remains were discovered in what was once the lobby of one of the twin towers. It was the biggest recovery in three weeks, once again underscoring the determination of crews that continue to toil nonstop at the complex.

"It is demanding, emotional. It is very stressful," said Tom Da Parma, a trustee of the Uniformed Firefighters Assn., the union that announced the find.

"The whole United States, the whole country has done a phenomenal job in supporting us," Da Parma said. "A lot of the firemen are feeding off this.

"With the new year coming, a lot of people believe there will be more closure, and that will be a tremendous boost for the rescue workers."

The bodies were discovered deep underground in pockets that were formed when some of the steel beams of the structures collapsed.

Workers at the site believe they are finally reaching an area where many of the people who tried to flee the twin towers were trapped.

Officials estimate 2,936 people were killed or are missing and presumed dead in the trade center attack. These include 343 firefighters.

In what has become a well-established ritual, whenever a body is found, it is covered by an American flag and carried from the site.

Family members are then notified, depending on their preferences. In some cases, relatives are ranked in order of notification, with notations on whether they wish to be awakened to be told late at night or early in the morning.

"People are notified in person," Da Parma said.

In some cases, a relative will accompany firefighters to notify other family members that a body has been found and identified.

"There might be a brother wanting to ride out to tell the wife or three of [the firefighter's] close friends," Da Parma explained.

Some firefighters have wanted to leave their firehouses when they are on duty to retrieve the body of a colleague once it is found in the rubble. But fire officials object to the practice, fearing fire protection would be compromised.

Da Parma said the union is trying to reach a compromise with the fire department so "we can get some of the brothers to go down there."

The Uniformed Firefighters Assn. also is seeking funds for an independent study of the air quality at the trade center complex, despite reassurances from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that the public is not being exposed to excessive levels of harmful substances.

"I have 300 to 400 [firefighters] out on medical leave for respiratory problems," said Thomas Manley, the union's health and safety officer. "For the most part, it is being resolved with antibiotics. But we don't know the long-term effects."

Firefighters spend 30 days at the site before they are reassigned.

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