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Ceremony Marks Start of 'Ground Zero' Tower in New York

4 July 2004 (RFE/RL) -- A ceremony was held today in New York to mark the start of construction of the world's largest skyscraper on the site where the twin towers of the World Trade Center once stood.

The "Freedom Tower" is expected to stand 541 meters (1,776 feet) in commemoration of the year citizens of the United States mark as the birth of their nation: 1776.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg spoke at the ceremony, reminding the audience of the significance of this day and the site for the new tower.

"I cannot imagine a more appropriate day [than U.S. Independence Day] to stand on this sacred ground and lay a cornerstone dedicated to freedom, the defining principle of our nation and the reason that we were attacked on 11 September 2001," Bloomberg said.

New York State Governor George Pataki said he chose Independence Day for the ceremony of laying the cornerstone of the new tower to show those who planned the attack on the World Trade Centers that the United States would not be defeated.

"How badly our enemies underestimated the resiliency of this city and the resolve of these United States," Pataki said. "How badly our enemies underestimated the power and endurance of freedom. In less than three years, we have more than just plans on paper - we place here today the cornerstone, the foundation of a new tower."

A 20-ton piece of granite that will be the cornerstone of the skyscraper bears an inscription that reads "to honor and remember those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001 and as a tribute to the enduring spirit of freedom -- July 4, 2004."

Guests at the ceremony included New Jersey State Governor James McGreevey and representatives of various faiths.

The Freedom Tower, designed as a twisting glass and steel tower that evokes the Statue of Liberty nearby, is scheduled to be completed in 2009 at a cost of around 1,500 million dollars, with plans to build four more towers between 2009 and 2015.