NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The observatory at the top of One World Trade Center officially opens to the public on Friday, nearly 14 years after the 9/11 attacks.

A foggy morning at the top of One World Trade did not dampen the spirits of the 3,000 people who won free tickets to get a sneak peek Thursday of the brand new observatory before it opens.

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“It was a once in a lifetime thing so we’re happy we went,” said Ohio resident Jessica Schullek. “Didn’t get to see anything, but we are happy we went. It was great.”

“Up top, it was absolutely gorgeous,” said Murray Hill resident Daniel Toder. “The views would be awesome, but I don’t think they could’ve done a better job.”

The observatory takes up levels 100, 101, and 102 of the center. The main public viewing space is on the 100th floor, with restaurants on the 101st floor and an event space on the 102nd floor. Visitors will get a view of the city and its surroundings from above 1,250 feet.

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“These views from the tallest building in the Western hemisphere are the best part of the show,” said David Checketts, chairman and chief executive officer of Legends Hospitality Management, which runs the observatory.

On a clear day, you can see stunning, panoramic views for miles.

“The windows are 30 feet tall here and we’ve added these terrazzo floors, wood paneling, but nothing inside to really take away from the view,” Checketts said.

The world’s fastest elevators get you there in less than 60 seconds, but that short ride is packed with a virtual history lesson as Manhattan grows before your eyes.

“The elevator was phenomenal,” said East Northport resident Margaret Raff. “That, I loved.”

The views are typically the stars of this show, but the observatory is also very high-tech.

The sky portal really makes you feel like you’re stepping out onto the ledge. A camera on the building shoots up a picture in real-time of what’s going on way down below.

But what you will not find at the observatory are reminders of the Sept. 11th attacks unless you look down at the memorials.

“The construction of this building is very meaningful,” Checketts told CBS2’s Andrea Grymes. “The ability to put it back up, the resiliency of the American people and New Yorkers, frankly, not only to put it back up but to put it up in a superb way.”

“It’s strong, it’s beautiful and it’s a symbol of freedom for all of us,” he added.

Free tickets are available for 9/11 families, rescue and recovery workers. For the general public, tickets will be $32 for adults and $26 for children, ages 6 to 12.

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