8.30am - By CHRIS MICHAUD
NEW YORK - Families of the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks joined New York City's mayor and two state governors on Sunday to lay the granite cornerstone of the "Freedom Tower" skyscraper at the site of the destroyed World Trade Center.
Relatives of some of the nearly 2,800 people killed when two hijacked jets slammed into the twin towers attended the US Independence Day groundbreaking ceremony with New York Gov. George Pataki, New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
The tower will be the world's tallest building at 1,776 feet, symbolizing US independence from Britain on July 4, 1776, when it is completed by 2009.
Pataki, a Republican, said the Sept. 11 hijackers "attacked us to break our spirit. Instead, they broke our hearts."
But he said they underestimated the city and nation's resolve and unity, as represented by the start of the $1.5 billion project less than three years later.
"Today we lay the cornerstone for a new symbol of this city, and of this country, and of our resolve to triumph in the face of terror. Today, we build the Freedom Tower," he said.
McGreevey, a Democrat, recalled the US Civil War and quoted from US President Abraham Lincoln's address at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, site of a crucial battle in 1863.
Bloomberg said that by laying "this cornerstone of hope, we are reaffirming life at Ground Zero. ... The world's tallest building will rise in lower Manhattan."
Julian Davis, 13-year-old son of Port Authority Police Officer Clinton Davis, who was killed on Sept. 11, then read from the Declaration of Independence.
The cornerstone from New York's Adirondack mountains is inscribed: "To honor and remember those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001 and as a tribute to the enduring spirit of freedom. July Fourth, 2004."
The tower will overtake Taipei 101 office block in Taiwan as the building regarded as the world's tallest. The Taipei building has not yet been completed but reached its maximum height of 1,667 feet in October.
New York's tower, evoking the form of the Statue of Liberty, will contain some similar elements to the original twin towers that stood at 1,368 feet, including the restoration of the well-known "Windows on the World" restaurant and an observation deck.
Daniel Libeskind designed the "Freedom Tower" in uneasy collaboration with David Childs, the architect hired by site leaseholder Larry Silverstein, who is himself under pressure to explain how he will pay to build four additional office buildings where the towers once stood.