- The Washington Times - Monday, July 5, 2004

NEW YORK (AP) — A 20-ton slab of granite, inscribed to honor “the enduring spirit of freedom,” was laid yesterday at the World Trade Center site as the cornerstone of the skyscraper that will replace the destroyed towers.

The ceremony marked the start of construction on the 1,776-foot Freedom Tower, designed as a twisting glass-and-steel tower that evokes the Statue of Liberty, including a 276-foot spire resembling her torch.

New York Gov. George E. Pataki, a Republican, said he chose July Fourth to begin rebuilding to show that the terrorists who attacked New York on September 11 didn’t destroy America’s faith in freedom.

“How badly our enemies underestimated the resiliency of this city and the resolve of these United States,” Mr. Pataki said. “In less than three years, we have more than just plans on paper — we place here today the cornerstone, the foundation of a new tower.”

The cornerstone put in place is garnet-flecked granite from the Adirondack Mountains. Garnet is the New York state gemstone.

It is inscribed: “To honor and remember those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001, and as a tribute to the enduring spirit of freedom. — July Fourth, 2004.”

Among the several hundred people at the ceremony were relatives of some of the people killed in the terrorist attack.

“It’s a new beginning,” said John Foy, whose mother-in-law was killed. “We all need to move on and rise above this.”

The 13-year-old son of a police officer killed in the attack read portions of the Declaration of Independence.

The stone and its inscription will eventually disappear from view as crews work over the next year to remove ruins of a parking garage and shore up the 70-foot-deep foundation before building the Freedom Tower above street level. Parts of the parking garage will go to a storage hangar at John F. Kennedy International Airport for preservation.

Completion of the Freedom Tower is scheduled for 2009, and trade center leaseholder Larry Silverstein has plans to build four more towers from 2009 to 2015.

Also planned for the site are a rail hub, a memorial that transforms the Twin Towers’ footprints into reflecting pools, and cultural space including several small theaters.

The Freedom Tower is set to rise in a corner of the site that still holds the ruins of a parking garage. At 1,776 feet, a height meant to evoke the year of the country’s independence, it will be the tallest skyscraper in the world, organizers say.

The tallest building today is the 1,676-foot-tall Taipei 101 in Taipei, Taiwan, which includes a mall, office space and an observatory. It was completed in October with the installation of a pinnacle atop the 101-story building.

The Taipei building is about 165 feet taller than the world’s former highest office building, the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The highest free-standing tower remains the CN Tower, a 1,815-foot communications structure and outlook point in Toronto.

The 110-story World Trade Center towers were 1,350 feet tall.

Critics have questioned whether all five towers of the Trade Center complex will be built, especially after a jury verdict this year cut the insurance proceeds Mr. Silverstein will get from a possible $7 billion to a maximum of $4.5 billion.

Mr. Silverstein still hasn’t signed an anchor tenant for the Freedom Tower, but he said he has more than enough money to complete it with insurance proceeds. He has said that he will use “traditional financing methods” to pay for the rest of the development.

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