Underneath the charred and broken concrete and metal that was the twin towers of the World Trade Centre, a shopping mall has survived virtually intact, an echoing tomb looking like a modern-day Pompeii.
Along with the tomb has come tomb raiders. Police say the stores along the ghostly subterranean passageways have been looted, stripped of their expensive goods and their cash registers emptied. They are investigating whether some rescuers were responsible.
Detectives revealed that they have already arrested two men on Thursday last week, including a former city correction officer, for stealing two watches worth $3,700 (£2,540). He was also charged with impersonating a police officer.
The mall, in the north-east corner of the Trade Centre plaza, had not been damaged to any significant extent by the searing heat and water damage had also been minimal. The shops reflected the wealthy clientele who worked at the towers and the thieves had targeted the ones selling the most expensive and portable items. They opened cash registers and got into the service room behind a row of Chase automated teller machines.
Second Lieutenant Peter Fluker, of Company C of the National Guard, said: "It was calculated. It was done with crowbars and heavy equipment and blunt objects which were used to smash big doors and jewellery cases. They were rescue workers of some sort."
National Guard officials said it was virtually impossible for civilians to reach the area, which is in the centre of a security ring and difficult to get in through rubble and darkness.
The National Guardsmen said they were deeply upset by the looting. Specialist Kiron A Ahamad, 25, said: " Whoever did this should pay the penalty. They should be giving a helping hand, not helping themselves."
Tourneau Watch Gear boutique was one of the shops extensively looted. The front window had been smashed and display stands emptied. Andrew Block, vice president for marketing, said: " We urged our employees to leave immediately after the terrorist attack. The store was locked when they left and then it was looted."
They discovered a place eerily frozen in time. Inside Sunglass Hut International an employee's breakfast rested on the counter next to an open newspaper. At a Chase ATM booth a customer receipt – for a $100 withdrawal made at 8.51am on 11 September – sticks out of the receipt slot.
The guardsmen also found examples of refreshing honesty. One search-and-rescue team had left a note at a card shop. "SAR team was here. Took World Trade Centre post card. Good luck". There was a $1 bill stuck to it.Reuse content