9-11 Search & Recovery

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Date Host Connie Willis
Guests Stanley Swan, Open Lines

On the 20th anniversary of 9-11, retired undertaker Stanley Swan joined guest host Connie Willis (info) to recount what it was like in New York City in the days following the infamous attack. He discussed his time working in the search and recovery at the Twin Towers debris site, where he looked for everything from personal effects to aircraft parts. Swan explained he was part of the recovery team because of his association with law enforcement and background as a funeral director. "One of the first things that really hit us... days and days and days after the fact they were still retrieving remains," he recalled.

Debris from Ground Zero was loaded into dump trucks and moved to a landfill on Staten Island, Swan continued. There front-end loaders scattered the debris over an area about the size of a football field for recovery teams in biohazard suits to comb through for anything that looked like it needed to be saved. "It was grueling work and it was very tiresome, and it was very emotional because you didn't know what you were going to come across," he said. In total about 1.6 million tons of Twin Towers debris was brought to Staten Island. "There was everything there from cinder blocks to office furniture to telephones to wiring harnesses," Swan reported, noting 1,600 personal effects were retrieved.

Any found human remains were bagged, photographed, and sent to the medical examiner's office for later DNA testing to identify victims, he explained. "Probably I was the only guy on my hands and knees... if anybody had a chance to find small remains it was myself," Swan admitted. Very few whole human remains were found after the Twin Towers collapsed, and just under 4,300 partial remains were located among the debris, he added. According to Swan, only around 300 victims were identified from the remains. It took about a year for all the debris to be brought to Staten Island landfill where it was eventually buried, he added.

The final hour of the program was devoted to Open Lines.

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