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Aschroft, FBI head stunned by ruins, awed by New Yorkers

NEW YORK (CNN) -- The nation's top law enforcers toured the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center Friday, commending the spirit of a city that gave its lives and its time to save people from the disaster.

Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller returned from the ruins nearly speechless but full of praise.

"Only standing in the midst of the twisted, torn, shattered rubble can one appreciate -- in any respect -- the scale, scope, the difficulty of this act of war perpetrated on the United States of America here in New York," Ashcroft said after touring the site with New York Gov. George Pataki and New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. "It is a capital of the world for spirit."

Mueller said he had respect and admiration for the agencies that responded quickly to the disaster, including the New York Police and Fire departments and the FBI, which set up a command post within a day after the attacks destroyed their offices in the World Trade Center.

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"We see out there, in walking amongst the buildings, the organization that has moved quickly into place to restore New York to what it was before September 11 of this year," Mueller said.

"We will rebuild New York," vowed Ashcroft. "It's our nature, it's our spirit, it's our dedication, it's our commitment."

Work at Ground Zero was muddy and wet Friday after scattered showers early in the morning. Crews reported making significant progress, having managed to clear away the two feet of concrete, dust and ash that had filled the streets directly adjacent to the World Trade Center complex.

That allowed workers and heavy equipment to move even closer to the piles of debris. Giuliani said searchers have recovered 241 bodies and the city's hospitals have treated a total of 6,291 people who were injured in the attacks.

The mayor said 6,333 people are missing in the attacks. The number is likely to change and the chance of recovering survivors is slim, he added. But he has not declared the rescue effort over and Friday he raised the possibility such a declaration may never be made.

"I think what will happen is that over a period of time, the emphasis will change," he said in his weekly radio call-in show. "This will be a search-and-rescue mission for quite some time."

Officials consulted international experts in urban search and rescue, who said experience with other disasters has shown it is still possible for victims to be alive.

"But the experts have not dealt with a situation like this before," the mayor acknowledged. "We keep alive the hope that maybe we can find a few people."

Joining the mayor on his show was Sen. John McCain, a Republican from Arizona, and the mayor of Jerusalem, Ehud Olmert, who toured the disaster area. Olmert had called Giuliani Sunday to express sympathy, telling him Jerusalem was renaming Jaffa Street "New York Street" as a gesture of support.

More international support came Friday from Japan, with diplomats announcing at City Hall a $10 million gift from the Japanese government. The money will go to both state and city recovery efforts, they said.

Officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, meanwhile, said they are continuing to assess the safety of buildings damaged by the towers' fall. Two buildings collapsed partially, and another five around the World Trade Center face possible structural damage.

Eight teams of structural engineers from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are helping in that assessment, said Col. Brian Osterdorf, and are also ready to provide early warning should a building be in danger of collapse.

The Corps is also helping the city manage the debris -- nearly 69,000 tons have been removed from the site so far -- and is prepared to help in the rebuilding effort later on, Osterdorf said.

He also gave further assurances that a giant sea wall surrounding the World Trade Center basement is safe following the collapse of the towers.

"We believe that, given the way that the event occurred, that wall is still pretty much intact," Osterdorf said, "but that will have to be looked at as well."

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