Construction workers sign the final steel beam before it is...

Construction workers sign the final steel beam before it is lifted by crane 977 feet in the air and placed atop 4 World Trade Center, which will be the first tower completed on the 16-acre WTC site when it opens in the fall of 2013. (June 25, 2012) Credit: Charles Eckert

Celebrated as a sleek elegant skyscraper, World Trade Center 4 -- which faces the National September 11 Memorial & Museum -- was topped off Monday with its last steel beam in a wave of emotional triumph.

The beam was hoisted 977 feet to the top of WTC 4 with Old Glory fluttering in the wind as several hundred hard-hat construction workers, real-estate dignitaries and elected officials in suits threw their heads back to watch it climb 72 stories.

"It's unbelievable to see all this growth," said Robert Duca, 49, of Roslyn, a member of Laborers Local 79 who has worked on the building site for two years.

Duca was one of dozens of construction workers and business people who signed their names onto the steel beam. "It's a piece of history," he said.

"It's fantastic and it's a good job," said Chris Conca, 39, of Nutley, N.J., also of Local 79. "I'm glad to see the progress."

Inside the building's lobby at Greenwich and Liberty streets, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) called the structure "beautiful."

"Today, the sun is shining on downtown Manhattan on a beautiful structure where there was once ugliness and pain," Silver said. "It is breathtaking and incredibly inspiring. It is also a symbol of New York's can-do and never-give-up attitude."

The WTC 4 lobby will showcase a window expanse of 80 feet with no column breaks, offering a view of the memorial's trees.

A lobby wall made of Swedish black granite is "designed to reflect the trees. It will be simple and elegant," said Janno Lieber, president of Silverstein Properties and project manager.

Tower 4 will house the Port Authority and several city agencies. It will have shops and restaurants and a pedestrian walkway of cafes facing Church Street -- all leading to an underground transit hub of subways and the New Jersey PATH train system.

Gary Kamemoto, WTC 4 project architect, said the building's design pays homage to "bridging" the hallowed ground of the twin towers from "a serene and sacred place to the other side of a living city that has been reborn into a real neighborhood of workers and residents."

Larry Silverstein, owner and developer of WTC 4, bought the World Trade Center shortly before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Seven World Trade Center was completed in 2006; WTC 4 is expected to be completed in fall 2013.

Silverstein also owns towers 2 and 3.

Silverstein paused for several moments before saying: "All we have been through, it's been a tough time. But when I think back on what happened after 9/11 . . . all the thousands of men and women who rushed here with no regard to their own safety to help and rebuild is incredible."

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