NEW YORK -- One World Trade Center, the successor to the twin towers destroyed on Sept. 11, 2001, has become the tallest structure on the Manhattan skyline, the latest milestone of New York's, as well as the nation's, rise from the terrorist attacks.
Workers on Monday raised a steel column onto the office building's skeleton and torqued the bolts, making the fastenings firm. With the addition, the unfinished structure is technically taller than the Empire State Building's observation deck at 1,250 feet and can claim the city's bragging rights.
"The New York City skyline is, once again, stretching to new heights," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a statement. "The latest progress at the World Trade Center is a testament to New Yorkers' strength and resolve, and to our belief in a city that is always reaching upward. This building has been a labor of love for many, and I congratulate the men and women who have worked together to solve the challenges presented by this incredibly complex project. Today our city has a new tallest building, and a new sense of how bright our future is."
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo also stressed the symbolism of rebirth. "The new World Trade Center is more than just a skyscraper: It is a symbol of the enduring spirit of the city and state of New York, representing our commitment to rebuilding stronger than before," Cuomo said.
The building previously known as the Freedom Tower is one of the signature efforts at the Lower Manhattan site that was destroyed in the airliner attacks by al-Qaida on New York and the Pentagon. About 3,000 people died in the overall attack, with more than 2,600 killed in New York when the towers of the World Trade Center came crashing down.
Since the attack, the 16-acre site, known as ground zero, has become a monument to the nation's effort to deal with the scars and memorialize the dead.
Still, Monday's action was heavily symbolic. It came during the week that the United States commemorates its successful raid on the compound of al-Qaida's leader, Osama bin Laden, who was killed by U.S. SEALs in Pakistan a year ago.
When completed sometime next year, One World Trade Center will stretch exactly 1,776 feet high, including a 408-foot needle, or spire, at the top. By comparison, the Empire State Building is 1,454 feet from the ground to the top of its antenna. Without the antenna, the Empire State Building is 1,250 feet, the figure passed by Monday's action at the World Trade site.
Without its spire, One World Trade Center will be 1,368 feet, the height of the North Tower of the original World Trade Center. The spire was added to bring the height up to 1,776 feet to honor the year of U.S. independence. At that height it will be the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere and the third tallest in the world.
Records, however, will be in the eye of the beholder. Chicago with its Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower) will still be able to make a case for some glory. Without its spire, One World Trade Center will be 82 feet shorter than the roof height of the Willis, currently the nation's tallest.
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