Following the terrorist attacks of 9/11, volunteers from local, state and federal agencies combed the remains from ground zero at Fresh Kills landfill in Staten Island, N.Y.
A day after the attacks, America began its recovery process. At ground zero in Manhattan, the course of action involved moving the debris from the attack site to the former landfill on Staten Island known as Fresh Kills. As the first trucks pulled into Fresh Kills, the landfill was transformed into a crime investigation scene and sifting through debris became part of the overall recovery effort.
Over the next 10 months, the effort at the landfill identified human remains, personal effects and everyday objects among the structural remains of the World Trade Center. This involved sorting through 1.8 million tons of material and more than 1.7 million labor hours.
While the operation was ongoing, former Public Affairs Specialist Kathleen Millar went to the landfill and interviewed U.S. Customs staff who were working around the clock during the early months of the recovery. She recorded this account in an article titled, "I hope that you find a lot of people" in the CBP publication Customs Today. Her article spoke to the loss of life and the need for survivors to have closure by identifying remains or to recover objects associated with a person or the attack site. Ten years later, she revisited her article and wrote of the personal emotions that it still brings to mind.
Similarly, the artifacts retrieved from Fresh Kills evoke memories of 9/11.
Selections of these solemn reminders along with a description of the recovery effort are now part of the exhibition titled, "We will Always Remember: CBP Commemorates 9/11." Items range from a twisted girder from the World Trade Center to personal belongings retrieved from the New York Customhouse at 6 World Trade Center. The significance of displaying these items is best expressed by CBP's Chance Youngs who helped to sift through the material at Fresh Kills. Youngs then noted: "The important thing is that people remember what happened on Sept. 11."
The exhibition, "We will Always Remember: CBP Commemorates 9/11," was on display in the 14th Street lobby of the Ronald Reagan Building, Washington, D.C. CBP displays are free and open to the public.