Updated: Thu, 02 May 2013 18:27:36 GMT | By NBC Newss

Final pieces lifted to top of Freedom Tower



Workers watch as the spire for the top of One World Trade Center is hoisted to the top of the building in New York, on May 2.

Workers watch as the spire for the top of One World Trade Center is hoisted to the top of the building in New York, on May 2.

Construction crews on Thursday hoisted the final steel spire that will top One World Trade Center and complete a piece of the New York City skyline missing since the 9/11 terror attacks.

A crane guided the final piece into a temporary structure that will house the section until final installation by iron workers at a later date.

Once installed, the spire — weighing more than 700 tons — will crown the Freedom Tower at 1,776 feet, making it the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, according to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The building currently tops out at 1,368 feet.

The event came one day after a 250-pound piece of an airplane wing, believed to be part of a 9/11 jetliner, was removed out of an alley near the World Trade Center where it was found last week and taken into police custody.

When the building is completed, and once it is verified by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, One World Trade Center will be the third-highest building in the world, behind Dubai's Burj Khalifa (2,717 feet) and Mecca's Makkah Royal Clock Tower Hotel (1,972 feet).

Willis Tower (formerly called Sears Tower) and the Trump International Hotel & Tower, both in Chicago, are currently the two highest buildings in the U.S.

The spire — complete with galvanized steel broadcast rings — will serve as part of the One WTC's transmission facilities for the region's media outlets. Perched at its tip is the spire's stainless steel beacon.

A large group of spectators gathered to watch the needle's ascent on Thursday.

Tourist Moulen Katherine called the spectacle "impressive" and "emotional."

Rick and Cindy Baldwin of Charlotte, N.C., had just arrived in New York City and called the sight "inspiring" and felt "excited to be part of New York City."

"I'm more interested in watching the people, they are as inspiring as the spire — the camaraderie they feel as they watch it  rise... we get to be part of history," Cindy Baldwin said.

Pockets of workers and tourists watched as two building crew members affixed an American flag to the spire.

Just outside the scrum, two building crew members, clad in white hard hats and neon yellow safety vests, called to each other from the sidewalk: "How you doing — all right?"

"Yeah, just trying to get a good picture," said the other as he raised his phone for a photo.

The spire's pieces were scheduled to be raised Monday but were delayed by wind.

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