NEW YORK (AP) - A final steel beam was lifted Monday atop a new World Trade Center skyscraper - the first expected to open at the site next year since the twin towers were decimated on 9/11.
With gospel superstar BeBe Winans offering a powerful rendition of "God Bless America," workers raised their hardhats in tribute as the mammoth beam rose slowly into the Manhattan sky, swaying from a steel rope hoisted by a crane.
A U.S. flag attached to the bottom of the beam fluttered above several hundred spectators at the topping-off ceremony.
In the southeast corner facing the 9/11 memorial, the 72-story tower that was topped off Monday is to open for business in the fall of 2013 - the first occupied high-rise at the new trade center site since the Sept. 11 attacks.
The 1.8-million-square-foot skyscraper, designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Fumihiko Maki, will primarily house commercial offices. A third of the office space will be set aside for the headquarters of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the site.
At the moment, it is the second tallest skyscraper on the rebuilt World Trade Center site after One World Trade Center, although two other towers eventually will surpass the height of 4 World Trade Center.
On Monday, more than 100 construction workers signed their names to the white-painted steel, with elected officials and developer Larry Silverstein looking on.
Minutes earlier, in the half-completed, marble-graced entrance, Winans opened the ceremony by singing "The Star Spangled Banner." Listening to it, some construction workers were moved to hold their hardhats over their hearts.