Six years after construction began on 3 World Trade Center, the skyscraper is towering high above Manhattan and rising toward completion.
Construction worker Kenroy Backas, from Brooklyn, is one of 650 iron workers, concrete haulers and other crew members working to add this glass highrise to lower Manhattan's skyline.
About 1,000 workers attended the topping out of 3 World Trade Center on Thursday.
They signed a 2-ton bucket that is used to haul concrete. It was hoisted to the top of the $2.5 billion high-rise to signal the construction milestone as a recording of "God Bless America" was played.
It’s no ordinary project. Floor by floor, these workers are helping rebuild a site torn apart by tragedy 15 years ago.
“It’s an awesome feeling to work here,” Backas said. “Especially on a building like this, knowing what happened at the World Trade Center. It’s a joy and pride to build back this building.”
Backas was happy to get his son Andre a special apprenticeship on the job site this summer.
“When I see the hard work I appreciate everything he does,” Andre said.
From up on the 81st floor, Kenroy and Andre can see the Empire State Building and most of the city.
It takes two construction elevator rides to get to that height. Enthusiastic operators bark out the floors as the elevators roll up.
“12! 13! Do I hear 16?” one operator said.
Once workers reach floor 65, there’s still several flights of stairs to walk and a ladder to climb before they reach the top.
Sean Johnson, the vice president of construction, said that with so many moving parts, the work requires strength and attention to detail.
“It’s chaos, but it’s coordinated chaos and that’s what we really like,” Johnson said.
In an exclusive interview, Janno Lieber, the president of World Trade Center development for Silverstein Properties, the building's owner, said the site is about to get a lot more bustling.
“A month or two from now, 500,000 square feet of retail is going to open right here at the World Trade Center,” Lieber said.
And that could quiet critics who wonder why rebuilding the World Trade Center site has taken 15 years.
"The whole project was incredibly complicated from many standpoints -- we needed to have a great debate about what we would build,” Lieber said.
He says these shiny new office towers will lure high paying jobs away from older infrastructure -- an essential push into the future.
"New York needs new office buildings like crazy -- 60 percent of the office buildings are 80 years old,” Lieber said.
3 World Trade Center -- diagonally across from the taller 1 World Trade -- won't officially open until 2018. When it does, Kenroy Backas says he'll be able to truly appreciate his role in shaping the new skyline.
“When I drive around and show my family in years to come. I worked in that building,” he said.