NEW YORK, Jan. 2 (UPI) -- The discovery of 13 bodies at the World Trade Center was a new year's gift Wednesday for the Fire Department of New York whose members have fought hard to be able to continue looking for the remains of their fallen comrades.
"Ten of the bodies are unidentified firefighters and three are civilians," a spokesman for the New York City Office of Emergency Management told United Press International. "There could be more."
After the remains were pulled from the rubble, work at the 16-acre site stopped, each of the bodies was covered with an American flag, and state police escorted each body to the medical examiner.
The bodies were recovered from a lobby of a building in rubble that is now 30 feet underground. The steel beams of the WTC's twin towers collapsed in such a way that pockets were formed.
In November, New York City officials and the district attorney dropped charges of trespassing, harassment and inciting a riot against all but one of the 15 firefighters arrested in a protest at "Ground Zero" against the cutting back of recovery workers at the World Trade Center.
Police had attempted to keep firefighters from the barricaded and restricted area of the World Trade Center where the firefighters wanted to observe a minute of silence. When kept out of the area, several stormed the barricades and a scuffle ensued with police officers. Five police officers were injured, two with black eyes.
Hundreds of firefighters had staged a demonstration after former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani cut the number of firefighters looking for remains at the World Trade Center. It is part of the tradition of firefighters to go back and find the bodies of those injured in the line of duty.
The firefighters had been angered by the city's attempt to turn the 16-acre site into what they call a "scoop-and-dump" operation because the remains of their brother and sister firefighters as well as police officers and thousands of civilians would "end up in landfills."
Giuliani, who had been in favor of prosecution because "firefighters should not slug the police," said he had changed his mind after meeting with some of the families of the firefighters who perished in the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11.
Many of the families of victims killed in the attacks consider Ground Zero a holy site where thousands are buried and they were incensed when Giuliani cut back the number of people working at the site looking for remains from about 150 to 200 to 25 each of firefighters, police and Port Authority police officers. As a compromise, Giuliani raised the number of firefighters at the site to 50.
The recent discovery of bodies occurred as the Fire Department of New York has restricted firefighters from leaving their home companies, making it more difficult for them to volunteer at Ground Zero because they said the city needs to have enough staff at fire department stationhouses.
According to city officials:
-- 363 declared missing by police
-- 593 confirmed dead
-- 1,980 death certificates approved
-- 131 NY firefighters identified
-- 9 Port Authority police officers identified
-- 6 New York police officers identified
-- 1 EMS technician identified
-- 1 NJ firefighter identified
-- 795,763 tons of rubble removed
-- 148,429 tons of steel removed
-- 944,192 total tones debris removed
-- 71,264 total truckloads of debris removed
(Reported by Alex Cukan in Albany, N.Y.)