TODAY   |  May 10, 2013

Matt gives signal for final WTC pieces to be placed

With a blast of an air horn from TODAY’s Matt Lauer, crews atop One World Trade Center begin to lift the last pieces of the building’s spire into place to make the tower a symbolic 1,776 feet tall.

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

>>> 7:30 now on a friday morning, a picture perfect day in lower manhattan and we are just moments away from watching history live on our air, the one world trade center spire will be lowered into place, 1,776 feet in the air, a number loaded with symbolism and meaning for this country, and matt is 104 floors up or so and he will have the honor of kicking off what has to be an incredibly delicate operation, matt, and loaded with meaning for all americans.

>> sarvannahsavannah, imagine the family members of those who lost their lives on 9/11, not only the people who worked at the world trade center but the heroic first responders who rushed into danger and lost their lives because of what happened here and over the last oh 11 years or so or 12 years, they've watched what's happened at this site. sometimes it's been painfully slow but over the last six plus years it's moved at quite a pace and so many people have put their heart and their soul into this progress or this process, and they're going to get to see the crowning achievement in a couple of minutes. by the way the guy who gets to have the honor of lowering the final two sections of the spire into place he's up in the crane just above me here, he's with the operating engineers local 14, that's john schaffner in the cab, and it's a delicate process. he'll pick this 75-foot piece of spire up, lift it above what's already in place and gently, ever so gently lower it to those ironworkers from local 40 up on the crow's nest, and they will then bolt it into place. now, guys like that have a tough commute to work every morning. they get up very early and boy, it is not easy to get here. i found that out firsthand just a couple of hours ago, savannah . got it, thank you. there was no napping on my way to work this morning. i caught an express elevator to the roof and i was lucky. usually the tower crew has to take three elevators to the top, a 30 to 45-minute commute just inside the building. needless to say, these days, they brown bag lunch . at the top, my workout begins, i have to climb nine ladders, about 20 stories, to reach my post on the crane platform. if you don't like ladders, you can't come here. over 1,500 feet off the ground. i can't imagine doing this every day, though for the crane operators , the view from their corner office is priceless. okay, we've made it to the top, just in time for sunrise. where is the starbucks? it really is an incredible journey, it's harrowing at times. i'm not afraid of heights but i found my knees knocking at times. this is scott reckler, chairman of the port authority . talk to me about the significance of today.

>> this is a symbolic moment, the building represents the resiliency of the country, the thousands of men and women who worked here tirelessly have done it a passionate tribute for the terrorists on 9/11 led on this site.

>> folks had the 9/11 stickers on their helmet and waiting for this moment for 12 years but certainly the last six and a half they've been building this building. scott, can we do this?

>> let's do it.

>> john schaffner, if he's ready and if these guys down below are ready, let's have the crowning achievement. [ horn ] now what will happen is john will start to lift this 75-foot-long section, two sections actually of the spire. these two sections combined, savannah , weigh about 40 tons. you can see, i think, as this section starts to lift you can see the beacon, which is right here in the center. [ cheers and applause ] that's a very technically advanced beacon that, when it's in place and operating can be seen for 50 miles in any direction, savannah , on a clear day.

>> i think i heard applause from some of the workers, people who have poured their hearts into this project and as we watch this moment unfold, matt, i have to tell you it is impossible not to have a lump in your throat right now.

>> a lot of the folks on the platform below us, again we are above the roof on a platform part of the crane above the roof of one world trade center . these people just wanted to be here this morning and i would imagine down on the ground there are a lot of other trade members, union members who have had some role in the construction of this building, they are probably gathered down there and there will be a huge piece of applause when this thing is finally lowered into place. they tell me because it is such a delicate operation -- i have to tell you weather was important. if you get a 40 on it section of spire swinging because of the wind, that is a very bad situation. they're going to lift it straight up. then they do they'll get it above the 1,701 foot section in place, lower it down to the ironworkers and they'll bolt it into place and that's when you'll hear the applause, savannah and natalie, when these people will let some of their emotions go.

>> it is a moment loaded with emotion and matt, forgive me if you mentioned this already but how long do we think this process will take?

>> it's about a 10 to 15-minute process. they have to do this carefully. they'll take about six or seven, eight minutes to get this above what's there are there, then they have to make sure it's lined up exactly right. by the way as the bottom of these sections pass us right now, i can tell you what they did initially is they lifted it up off the platform here and they checked it very carefully to make sure there was no debris, nothing extra stuck to that mounting bracket area so there would be anything less than a perfect fit and they put those 60 bolts in and tightened them. they're heavy. i actually held one of them in my hands a short time ago and they'll make sure that thing is absolutely secure, savannah .

>> we will wait and watch. you stay right there, i know you're not going anywhere, matt, we'll check in with you in a moment.

>>> let's check in with matt who is down at one world trade center site witnessing history. what do you see, matt?

>> it's going great here, savannah . these two sections of the spire are now probably a couple hundred feet above us, going straight up. there was a moment, i will tell you, about five seconds ago where it looked like it was starting to swing a little bit. talk about the skill and precision a guy like john schaffner in that cab has to employ at this time. it has to be so steady. you can't get that moving in any bad direction. you don't want it to knick slightly the existing structure. it's probably getting 20, 30 feet from where the ironworkers are from local 40, it will be raised above them, the crane will swing a little bit, check it one last time and john schaffner will slowly begin to lower it. it has a square mounting bracket at the bottom with lots of holes for the bolts. they'll slide that perfectly into place and quickly begin to bolt it into place and it will be the crowning achievement of this project, savannah , that's taken so long, the planning and there were so many disagreements here after 9/11 what should be done with this site, should it remain a memorial, should there be any buildings here, who would finance it? what was the design? should there be two towers or one? all that was put aside. the rebuilding began and everybody came together especially these people here who have made this possible, savannah .