City's tallest building _ the Empire State _ open to tourists

Sunday, September 30th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ 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.''

But determined not to let terrorists keep New York from getting back to business _ including entertainment _ Mayor Rudolph Giuliani appeared on the season debut of NBC's ``Saturday Night Live.'' After a somber introduction praising police and fire department heroes, Giuliani belted out the show's catch phrase, ``Live from New York, it's Saturday Night!''

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.

Giuliani, standing with dozens of firefighters and police officers, delivered a mostly solemn opening monologue on NBC's show.

``Our hearts are broken, but they are beating, and they are beating stronger than ever. New Yorkers are unified. We will not yield to terrorism,'' Giuliani said. ``We will not let our decisions be made out of fear.''

After the mayor's speech, the cameras quickly panned over to singer Paul Simon, who performed ``The Boxer.''

Giuliani then said, ``Having our city's institutions up and running sends a message that New York City is open for business. The show's executive producer, Lorne Michaels, asked the mayor, ``Can we be funny?''

``Why start now?'' Giuliani deadpanned.

At the site of the trade center, workers continued digging out the 1.2 million tons of rubble left when the towers collapsed. The latest police figure showed 5,641 victims missing _ down about 300 from Friday. As of Saturday, 309 bodies had been recovered, with 248 of them identified.

``The reality is we don't expect to find anyone alive,'' Giuliani said.

Crews were still demolishing the remains of the adjacent building at 4 World Trade Center on Saturday. City officials warned that other nearby buildings were unstable and may also need to come down.

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.

The Empire State Building's observation deck had reopened briefly for a trial period Sept. 15. The observatory will be open again Sunday, then close Monday through Friday and reopen for the Columbus Day holiday weekend.

The top of the building will remain illuminated in red, white and blue through the end of November.