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First Look At One World Trade Center Observation Deck

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- From the top of One World Trade Center, the nation's tallest building, it really does seem as if you can "see forever.''

Those two words are the motto of the center's new observatory that opens May 29, offering spectacular, wraparound views stretching 50 miles past the Manhattan skyline and Statue of Liberty to the Atlantic Ocean.

But even when the 1,776-foot building disappears into the clouds, there are still plenty of high-tech videos and multimedia displays that reflect the hope and optimism of a building and a city that rose from the ruins of the nation's deadliest terror attack.

PHOTOS: Tour Of 1 WTC Observation Deck

CBS2's Dick Brennan got a tour Wednesday from Dave Checketts, chairman and chief executive officer of Legends – which runs the observatory.

"These views from the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere are the best part of the show," Checketts said.

The windows in the observatory are 30 feet tall, he said.

First Look At One World Trade Center Observation Deck

"We've added these terrazzo floors and wood paneling inside, but nothing inside to really take away from the view," Checketts said.

Visitors who enter the observatory encounter a delicate balance of future and past, with only brief references to the twin towers that were slammed by terrorist-hijacked planes on Sept. 11, 2001, killing more than 2,700 people.

"We've all suffered. We've all lost people important to us," Checketts said. "But this building now is about moving forward, unafraid -- courage, perseverance, resiliency -- whatever words you want to use – that's what this building is about."

The observatory spans three floors, from the 100th to the102nd, and the world's fastest elevators will take you there with a virtual history lesson -- you watch Manhattan grow before your eyes.

During the lightning-fast, 48-second elevator ride up to the 102nd floor, a three-dimensional, time-lapse panorama shows 515 years of history at the tip of Manhattan, with the twin towers appearing for less than four seconds before dissolving out of view.

And just above the street-level entrance, faces of men and women who toiled to erect the mammoth, gleaming tower appear in a jagged tunnel that replicates the trade center's bedrock, their recorded voices filled with both pain and pride.

Stepping from the elevator, visitors are greeted with display panels showing 3-D, bird's eye scenes of the metropolis. The panels then lift to reveal New York City -- right now.

There's another display called "City Pulse,'' a ring of high-definition video monitors marking popular city activities, neighborhoods and "hot spots.''

You can also watch Jenny Neale, the "interactive concierge," used her arm to demonstrate "City Pulse." The display showed the Times Square of yore with the old New York Times building, and switched to images of the Times Square of today with the wave of a "magic wand."

And a wave of the hand in the direction on "City Pulse" opens the latest details on everything from sports and theater to the best pizza locations. For an additional $15, visitors may use iPads that scan the skyline, popping up imagery and information narrated by novelist Jay McInerney.

There is also food from all over the city.

There's no need to creep to observatory's edge for a dizzying view of the city about a quarter-mile below. Visitors can stand on a round video platform that shows an actual livestream of the view straight down.

And perhaps the most hair-raising moment of the whole visit is the elevator ride down. LED screens surrounding passengers simulate the flight of a bird or plane high above the site, dipping and soaring around the skyscrapers all the way back to the ground.

Earlier Wednesday, "CBS This Morning'' was broadcast live from the new 102nd floor observation deck at One World Trade Center.

First Look At One World Trade Center Observation Deck

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and CNN's Anderson Cooper were among the guests.

The rebuilding of the World Trade Center and a thriving downtown Manhattan show that the 9/11 attackers lost, de Blasio said.

"It's a rebirth; it means that -- particularly for downtown -- we're back 100 percent," de Blasio said. "This building had to be done in a very particular way, and it's safe and it's secure and it's absolutely beautiful."

CBS ran some fiber optic line to ensure it can transmit a live broadcast signal from the space and imported a replica of the desk that the morning hosts sit at in their 57th Street studio, said the show's executive producer Chris Licht. Considering the location, it wasn't otherwise a major technical challenge, he said.

The observatory is open to adults for $32, and less for seniors and children -- comparable to Empire State Building fees. Tickets may be purchased online, for a precise time to avoid overcrowding.

Checketts, who expects about 3 million to 4 million visitors a year, said the symbolic importance of the building makes a visit to the observatory a special experience.

"I was just looking out at the Statue of Liberty, and frankly, I got emotional about it,'' he said of his first visit. "It's this point in New York, in this city that we all love and it's rebuilt. It's back up.''

The observatory opens to the public on Friday, May 29.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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