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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

5,000 Still Missing in New York

NEW YORK -- Rescuers on Sunday were hoping against hope to find survivors as they entered the sixth day of digging the compacted rubble of the World Trade Center's twin towers out of what was once their basements.

Some 5,097 people were still missing after hijacked passenger planes smashed into the two tallest buildings in New York on Tuesday, crumpling the 110-story structures.

No one has been found alive since Wednesday, but Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said rescuers were refusing to give up hope, even though he said it was possible that body parts may be all that is left.

While vowing to keep up a feverish search for survivors, officials for the first time began to talk about the possibility of shifting the focus to recovering bodies.

"Each day, we will re-evaluate and decide when this rescue becomes a recovery," New York Fire Commissioner Thomas von Essen told a news briefing Saturday.

The rubble and twisted steel from the towers were compacted mainly below ground level, von Essen said.

"My guys describe it to me as a crater, almost like a volcano that drives down at least seven stories," he said. "They are doing the best they can to try and penetrate. This is very difficult, unbelievably dangerous work."

As if preparing relatives for the worst, Giuliani said it was "very possible that we are not going to recover bodies, and people have to know that."

Asked if there were any injured people in hospitals who had not been identified -- a final ray of hope for some of the relatives looking for the missing -- Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik said, "No, there's none."

Giuliani said 5,097 people were missing. Of 180 bodies recovered, 115 had been identified. Some of the identities were established by examining partial remains.

Forensic scientists were comparing genetic material from the remains with samples, such as those taken from a hairbrush or toothbrush of the victim or a swab provided by relatives.

"It will be the most likely identification means in this disaster," said the city's chief medical examiner, Charles Hirsch.

Only five people have been pulled out alive since the attacks.

Of the estimated 457,000 tons of debris from the two towers and other damaged structures, rescuers had shifted about 22,350 tons, or 2,047 truckloads, by Saturday afternoon.

"It'll be done, no matter what it takes, we'll get it done," said worker Steve Dellasalla, echoing the determination of all New Yorkers to resume a semblance of normal life and business after seeing their city's landscape and psyche altered forever. "It'll be done in time for Monday."

There was a mood of grim resignation at the disaster site, which has come to be known as "ground zero" by the public, and "the pile" by hardened firefighters and construction workers facing the worst assignment of their lives.

Thick dust and smoke still poured from the ruins into New York's made-for-postcard skyline, five days after the attack that shocked the world.

"My baby brother is dead in there, he's 30 years old," said one veteran New York firefighter, who asked not to be identified. "I went to console my mother first, then me and my other brother came back to dig."

Bulldozers, trucks and police vans clogged the streets as men and women worked feverishly to reopen gas, electricity and telecommunications systems. Well-wishers cheered the exhausted rescue workers as they traveled to and from the site.

A few thousand people on Sunday morning were continuing a vigil at Union Square Park, one of the closest points to the disaster site where people can gather.

"Every imaginable kind of person who lives in New York is here," Brian Farrell, who works in information technology and watched the disaster from Jersey City, said at the vigil.

Later Sunday, memorial services were scheduled at churches around the city. A mass memorial rally was scheduled for Sept. 23 in Central Park.

The skirl of bagpipes broke the still morning air Saturday as hundreds of New York City firefighters paid last respects to Mychal Judge, their chaplain of 10 years who perished in the destruction of the World Trade Center.

Judge, a 68-year-old Franciscan priest, died while giving last rites to a firefighter who perished when the twin towers collapsed.

The service was likely to be followed by many others for a fire department that may have lost up to 350 people -- more than double the number of firefighters killed in action in the entire United States since 1977.

Funerals were also held Saturday for two high-ranking New York City firefighters, First Deputy Commissioner William Feehan and Chief of Department Peter Ganci. They were killed in the aerial attacks in lower Manhattan.

"This is a horrible, horrible tragedy," Giuliani said at a press conference in Long Island after Ganci's funeral. "These are wonderful men. They were the leadership of our fire department."

On Friday, city officials moved the northern boundary of the "frozen zone'' -- the section of the city off-limits to all but those who live there -- south from 14th Street to Canal Street, the New York Times reported. There were constant sirens and fleets of dump trucks headed for the World Trade Center, and at every intersection a small group of police officers were preventing people from going south of Canal.