TODAY   |  September 09, 2011

Inside the ‘bigger, better' World Trade Center 

TODAY’s Matt Lauer tours the sky-piercing 1 World Trade Center, which will soon be the tallest building in the country.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> we welcome you back to ground zero in lower manhattan . the new one world trade center building behind me formally known as freedom tower is still under construction. already reached to 80th floor. we were given a private tour of what will soon be the tallest building in this country.

>> you have a little bit of your life and soul embedded in that building.

>> we are moving on. we're making it bigger, better, and stronger.

>> i feel like i've accomplished something really big.

>> reporter: the men and women rebuilding ground zero understand their work is much more than a job. every bolt, every beam, every floor supports the weight of history. i begin my tour in the footprint of the ones historic buildings with architect. this forest of trees will grow 70 feet tall. all of them oak, except one. the survivor tree , pulled from the rubble at ground zero .

>> it looks like it was a tree but it was nursed back to health. this try is thriving and surviving.

>> reporter: when he was just 34, he beat out over 5,000 entrants in the design competition for the memorial. his winning vision set were the original towers once stood. 2 30-foot waterfalls into darkness , he calls it, we flekting absence. what do you want them to think as they look down in this?

>> what i wanted to do is really create a place where people could have a moment of silence. emptiness, but emptiness full of meaning.

>> can you show me a glircht of what it's going to look like?

>> reporter: yet to be revealed are the victim's names engraved in panels surrounding the pools.

>> here are some of the ladder companies.

>> reporter: while the pools are meant to honor the dead, it's the building towering beside them, one world trade center that will honor the living.

>> you look at this thing, you have another 30 floors to go but it's going up at a pace about a floor a week. right?

>> incredible.

>> how high are we going?

>> the top, 76. i think it's going to give you a new sense of a new town town.

>> i head up with chris ward , executive director of the port authority in new york and new jersey that oversees construction. what's being done to make it as safe as possible?

>> well, what you're looking at is incredible soaring, beautiful lobby that has inherent in its design safety and security. this is a blast wall that was 18,000 pounds per square inch in concrete, to stop anybody from bringing a truck bomb in. these steel girders are 60 feet tall and ways 70 tons. up we go. i want to say this is truly going to be the exclamation point of a new york city skyline.

>> how tall is it going to be?

>> all of the way up, it's going to be 1776 . to the roof it's going to be 1356 . it's going to be 3.2 million square feet . it will be the tallest skyscraper in america .

>> reporter: touted as new gold standard in skyscrapers, the top half will be shaped like a perfect octagon, 20 floors of glass, it will also have some of the fastest elevators in the world. but all this comes at a cost. an estimated $3.2 billion and years of delays.

>> they're doing an incredible job, and yet some people are going to say it's been ten years and they're surprised it's not done by now. how do you answer that?

>> we have built the most complex public works project in america 's history. this tower that we're going to be on was built on top of a subway train . they're working every single hour of every single day.

>> reporter: and to move forward, they needed to put aside years of in fighting among politicians, designers, and the victim's family.

>> 68, turn right, when you do, look what you see.

>> wow. wow. like an unobstructed view.

>> this could be your corner office .

>> reporter: unlike the old world trade center with a framework of external steel, this building rises to an armored concrete core. if something were to happen to that structure right there, it doesn't jeopardize the integrity of the building.

>> exactly. it was designed to stop that cascading catastrophic failure that everybody saw on 9/11. okay. so we're now going to look at the outer stairways.

>> comfort of home.

>> yes. you have a problem with heights this is probably where the tour ends.

>> yes.

>> it's a workout to reach the top. a dizzying ladder winds upward. from now on we're on ladders?

>> ladders.

>> reporter: if you need a break you can duck into the subway, sandwich shop that is. it rises with the building. i'm buying lunch, guys. so come on, belly up, all right? there are over 3500 workers at ground zero . many of whom feel deeply connected to this site. brian lions came down town on 9/11 to find his kid brother michael, a firefighter, who never made it home. you've been down here basically every day since. why?

>> at that moment i made a commitment to myself i wanted to find my brother, find everybody else , and rebuild this place bigger and better than everybody before. new york city and america can't be defeated.

>> wow.

>> 76.

>> right now.

>> 30 to go.

>> wow. wow. that's a lot to think about.

>> reporter: a soaring testament to our nation's resilience wrapped up in concrete, glass, and seals. the day you turn the key and they open this place, what do you think it's going to mean to not only new york city but america ?

>> i think it's going to be just an incredible statement of pride. this is what we do. we build, we recover, rwe create a place to live. that's who we are.

>> quite a view from up there. the tower will be ready for business in 2013 . one world trade center already has two major tenants. they say they will have no problem filling the rest. we're going to be back on a friday morning right after