Empire State Building reopens observation deck to tourists

Sunday, September 30, 2001

NEW YORK -- Once again the tallest structure in New York, the Empire State Building reopened its 86th floor observation deck Saturday to tourists who looked south with disbelief at a ravaged skyline.

"I just don't know how it could happen here," said Joan Carroll, of Cheyenne, Wyo., as she looked downtown at the gap where the World Trade Center stood. "It is sad. It's very sad."

Less than three weeks after terrorists slammed two hijacked planes into the 110-story twin towers, visitors at the Empire State said they were not worried about a terrorist attack at the midtown Manhattan landmark.

"We have to claim back what's ours," said Albert Fabrizio, 35, of Philadelphia. "We have to open the gates."

More than 500 tourists queued up by 10 a.m. to pass through an airport-style X-ray machine for the elevator ride upstairs, with building officials saying they expected 10,000 tourists Saturday.

A makeshift sign read, "No knives or cutting instruments of any length are permitted beyond security checkpoints."

The absence of the towers in lower Manhattan was painfully obvious from the deck, and a wisp of white smoke rose above ground zero. The Empire State's deck closed within hours of the Sept. 11 attack.

Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who attended a pair of memorial services Saturday, announced plans to deliver a somber opening monologue on the season debut of "Saturday Night Live."

Giuliani was to appear with Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen, Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, and a group of city firefighters, police officers and Port Authority police officers.

"I'm going to introduce it, and tell people to laugh," Giuliani said. "On any given day, people should be prepared to cry and to laugh."

Visitor from Turkey

At the site of the trade center, workers continued digging out the 1.2 million tons of rubble left when the towers collapsed. There were still 5,960 victims missing. As of Friday, 306 bodies had been recovered.

Turkish foreign minister Ismail Cem toured ground zero Saturday, saying a prayer before leaving the site.

"Terror does not have a religion or a geography, just as it has no justification," said Cem, whose country is the only Muslim member of NATO. "The Turkish people stand together in our fight against terrorism."

The city's ban on single-occupant cars entering Manhattan below 62nd Street was suspended for the weekend, but was expected to resume on Monday.

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