NEW YORK (
) -- Cheering construction workers pierced the canyons of the Financial District on Friday morning at One World Trade after the crew hoisted a silver spire to top the now-tallest building in the western hemisphere, standing at an iconic 1776 feet tall.
Last month I ascended the colossal structure with Port Authority Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni, who has been deeply involved in the rebuilding of the World Trade Center site.
Standing at the base of the Freedom Tower I snatched an intimidating glimpse of the super structure, which served as a reminder that weak stomachs may regret the climb.
We rose to the 102nd floor via an external industrial elevator that crawled to the observation deck in about six minutes. On the south side below, I observed the beautiful waterfalls in the National September 11 Memorial & Museum that trace the plots where the Twin Towers once hovered above lower Manhattan. To the North, I witnessed the shrinking downtown skyline, and eventually surpassed the peak of the Empire State Building -- a first for me, and soon to be the first for many New Yorkers in more than 11 years.
The observation deck was fully exposed. No windows, or walls, and all that separated me from the edge was polyethylene, orange netting.
What struck me most wasn't the view that extended for many miles, it was the silence. No sirens, no horns and no sounds of the city.
At one point, Bill Baroni handed all of us permanent markers and asked us to sign a concrete wall that made up part of the tower's infrastructure. Baroni told us that signing the building was a tradition among the city's construction workers that began decades ago.
A police officer who accompanied our group told me he responds to the observation deck whenever crew are injured. I asked him if the trek each day up and down the building had grown tiring. The officer said that the view atop One World Trade never gets old. "I could do this every day," he said with a smile.
-- Written by Joe Deaux in New York.