“Jason walked right up to me in front of 70 Pine, our designated meet up spot. As always, he was late, and I was early. The sun was going to set at almost eight o’clock, and it was only six, so we were good to make the sunset shots.”
Jason walked right up to me in front of 70 Pine, our designated meet up spot. As always, he was late, and I was early. The sun was going to set at almost eight o’clock, and it was only six, so we were good to make the sunset shots.
“The man, the myth, the legend. Nice to see you, Jason. You ready?” I said.
“You know it. So how are we getting in?”
“Easy. The school right there. I’m friends with them. I’m sure they’ll let you in… just say you need to use the bathroom.”
“Got it.” I pointed to the school and showed him an outline I wrote earlier in art class of how exactly we were going to get in. We crossed the street and walked into the school.
“Hey Marlon, how are you?” I said, putting my hand out.
“Happy to see you again! What you need.”
“Just need to use the bathroom, if that’s okay. I’ve been looking for so long.”
“Of course, just use the one on the third floor.” I smiled and started walking up the stairs, Jason following right behind me.
“Your friend can wait down here,” he said, looking back at me.
“Okay.” I looked at Jason and signalled for him to ask.
“Do you mind if I go wash my hands upstairs?” Jason asked.
“It’s fine… you can go up,” Marlon said.
We walked up the stairs and looked at each other. I smiled and said, “We’re in. We did it. We passed the hard part.” I smiled a big smile and kind of giggled right as we got out of sight of the security. We got to the third floor and passed by the bathroom and kept walking down the school. We saw the exit sign signalling to go to the right. We took a right, and we were in the clear: no cameras and the stairwell entrance right in front of us.
“Okay, put on your bandana.” I took mine out, and so did Jason. He had a blue on, and I had a red one… ironic.
“This is what we’re going to do. Go to the ninth floor and transfer to staircase H. From there we take it down to the fifth, and we’re past the security in the offices, and we could take the elevator down to the lobby. From there, follow me.”
“Okay,” Jason said. We both had our bandanas on, and my hand was on the staircase door handle. I took a deep breath, turned the handle, and walked in. I covered my eyes in front of the three cameras pointed at the door. It didn’t phase me. I just kept walking and kept my head low. We ran up the stairs and arrived on the ninth floor. We opened the exit door and came inside an office area inside the Trump building. I saw the golden elevators, but there was a glass door blocking me from them. We were close but still a mile away. I led him around to stairwell A, and we took it down to the fifth floor. Open sesame! The moment we opened the doors, we saw the golden sheen of the Trump elevator doors.
“Bingo,” I said, jumping up and down.
“Take your bandana off. We’re good. Just follow me, and don’t be afraid to look around. Try to act normal,” I said while laughing. All the pressure released from my body, and I felt calm. From here, it was just the matter of not getting stopped while going into the elevators, but there was no worry for — Bing! Within seconds, we were already at the lobby, and the golden doors opened to more golden decor and white marble floors. I walked out and took a slight right to the elevators labeled forty-five to sixty-two. We walked into the hall and clicked the button to call the elevator. Immediately we heard a ring, and both of our necks swiveled backwards. We walked in and almost at the same time, we saw the cameras staring us down. We turned around and smiled at each other. We were in Trump’s most valuable tower.
The elevator was fast, but relative to the tall building, it took a minute or two to get to the sixty-second floor. The doors opened, and we both sighed in relief. The elevator door shut, and we heard the whirring as it went down beneath us.
“Well… we’re here! Look at that view,” I said, pointing to a huge window looking out at the sunset.
“Damn that’s beautiful,” Jason said, staring into the sun. The blue, almost fluorescent sky lit up as the sun started making its way down, turning it orange inch by inch.
“Okay, what next?” Jason said.
“I’ll take you to the highest we can get, but the door to get to the spire is locked. I checked earlier.”
“This has been done before. I’m sure we can find a way.” I looked back at Jason and clicked the elevator button leading to the top floor. It opened up with a loud, creaking noise. It was an old, freight elevator contrary to the new, golden, shiny ones on the main elevator. Again I clicked the highest floor, and it started to go up. The elevator buzzed, and we made our way out. I stuck my head out of a half open window and looked up. We were about forty feet below from the base of the thinning spire.
“There’s the lock right there.” I pointed to the entrance leading to the spire. Jason walked up to the lock and started fiddling with it, turning it, and banging it. We even tried to break the lock, but nothing worked.
“I guess we should find another floor where we could go on the outside,” Jason said. I nodded back. I walked into the stairwell and lightly walked down the stairs. We checked every door on every floor, and everything was locked, but when we got to the sixty-fourth floor we found a wide open hole in the wall. It was dim, and the walls were made of brick. There were loud noises and lights coming from inside from rusty machines that probably have been there since 1930, when the Trump building was made. We walked into the room and saw orange light peeking through the windows. We walked toward it. It was a fully open three-foot window. Just enough for us to easily get in and out.
“Jackpot.” We dropped our bags and jackets and looked out. It was breathtaking and familiar, but it felt as we say in the Philippines, “biten” (BIH-TIN), meaning not enough or that it didn’t hit the spot. We both knew this wasn’t the building’s full potential, and it didn’t really satisfy what we did all this work for. We stayed there for a good twenty minutes and got a lot done. Not a second is wasted when rooftopping. Everything has to be as correct and precise as possible while still being quick and silent. We took photos, Snapchats, and hung from one hand from the side of the building. Just normal things. We were both done, and all I wanted to do was leave. I gave up, and in my mind I knew getting up to the top would be impossible without a pick lock or explosive.
“Okay Jason, let’s go… I don’t wanna get caught.”
“Hold up. C’mon, I have an idea”
“No, we’re going.” I called the elevator and got in. Jason got in and shook his head.
“Silly you.” He pressed the highest floor we could get in again. The door shut, and we were going back.
The elevator door opened, and I had a feeling that I normally get while rooftopping. Most rooftoppers have anxiety that when the elevator door opens, a horde of police and security will be waiting there for them. In all honesty, using the elevators is the most nerve-wracking, especially when going down. But that didn’t happen today, it never does. It’s something that happens on YouTube.
“Get your keys out right now,” Jason said, as he walked out of the elevator.
“Stop, that’s not going to work.”
“I’m being so serious. Give it to me.” I shrugged and dug through my overfilled pockets. I felt the rigid ends of the keys and yanked it out. I tossed it to Jason, and he walked over to the locked door.
“This should work.” Jason stuck the key in. It fit perfectly, sliding in with ease. He turned it left… didn’t budge… he turned it right. Didn’t budge. Then he wiggled the key and left just about a hair line out of the lock. Then boom, he turned right, and I heard the most satisfying sound I’ve ever been a part of.
“NO FUCKING WAY! NO WAY!” I screamed.
Jason looked at me nonchalantly and said, “Ladies first.”
I gladly said yes and slowly walked up the spiral stairs. Within the stairs there were small circle windows about 1.5 feet in diameter. I saw higher than I ever saw before. So many things were racing through my head. I didn’t even care if I got caught anymore. This was the most badass thing I’ve ever done. Everyone dreams of climbing the Trump Tower, and I could basically do this in my sleep now. We walked all the way to another metallic, almost brand new, spiral staircase. I saw the bright lights surrounding us pointed out to the city. I knew exactly where we were… we were in the spire of Trump’s most valuable tower.
“I think we should leave our bags here,” Jason said. I nodded and dropped my bag down. All I needed was my camera. Everything was setup and ready to go. We started to climb up the rusty, old, steel ladder to the top. I kept my camera hanging from my neck and propped off the side of my back. I tried my best not to let my camera hit the grimy bars on the ladder. The ladder went about forty feet up and got dirtier and rustier the higher I got. When I got to the top, I stood on the bars that went across the ten-foot space. The window out was right in front of me, waiting for me to go through. I held on to the side walls as I waited for Jason to come up. He got up and looked outside the window.
“No way… we are here man. No turning back.” Jason said.
“I know. Is it safe to go out?”
“Yeah, I’m going first, then just follow along. Here, hold my camera.” Jason handed me his camera, and legs first, he squeezed through the window.
“Okay, pass my camera.” I climbed toward the window and handed Jason his camera. He stood out there fiddling with his camera and looking around the sky. He looked up and froze.
“Yo. Yo, grab my camera right now… RIGHT NOW.” I grabbed his camera without hesitation.
“What happened,” I said, as I started to make my way down the ladder.
“No, no, no, stay here we’re fine, there’s just too many helicopters out here. Let’s wait till it gets a bit darker.” He awkwardly squeezed back through the window facing backwards. When he got back in, we both sat on the rusty bars and looked at each other in silence. We sat there slowly relaxing every second. I felt my heart rate slow down, and my thoughts about getting caught slowly slipped out my mind. We were in the roof area for about an hour now and nothing has happened. No cameras, no motion detectors… nothing. I could, with authority, say this was one of the easiest roofs in NYC. We waited inside looking out the window for about thirty minutes. The helicopters didn’t stop, but they slowed down as the sun went down.
“I think we should go now,” I said.
“Okay, hold my camera.” I took the camera and cradled the lens like a baby. He quickly got out to the spire and grabbed his camera. It was my turn, and by God, was I ready. I held on to the top ledge of the window and propped myself out legs first. I looked up and saw about thirty feet up till the end. Never had I been so high in my life, and there was nothing that could top this, so I tried to make the most out of this trip. I took out my camera that was already set up and started firing away on rapid speed.
The shots came out beautifully and needed minimal editing. I tried to hang or do some daredevilish stunts, but everything was thin and flimsy and hadn’t been restored since 1930. We walked in circles. The distinct, almost mint green still sticks in my mind. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a beautiful, worn out green so close up in my life. You have to see it to appreciate it. I continued to take shots and videos of this mission. But for just a minute, I put the camera down and enjoyed what I wouldn’t have for a long time. The World Trade Center glowed with its smaller buildings, making it seem like a small, utopian village in the middle of other futuristic office buildings which took up the Financial District. Then, you walked to the opposite side and saw Manhattan’s tapering down to the Staten Island Ferry. It was surreal looking down and seeing nothing but the green of the rest of the roof.
“I’m doing it,” Jason said, as he walked toward the ladder leading up.
“Crazy mofo.” He started scaling even higher than the nine-hundred feet we were at. Relative to where we were already at it didn’t seem to make a difference, but the view was beautiful. Jason climbed to the top of the spire as I peered down. He took one candid shot, and I went back to shooting. What I didn’t know was that he took the best photo of me I’ve ever seen.
He headed down, and we knew it was time to go. We’d been up there close to two and half hours, and we didn’t want to cut it any closer. Jason climbed down from the spire, and I passed him my camera. I hopped inside the small room back in and squatted on the bars I was standing on.
“Get my camera,” Jason said. I took his camera, and he awkwardly squeezed himself halfway and then got stuck because he was coming out backwards.
“Fuck, what do I do,” he said.
“Jeez, let me help you.” I went across the bars and slowly held him as he went back out to try again. He went feet first and pulled himself in. I gave him his camera, and he packed it away in his bag. I strapped my camera to my shoulder and started climbing the ladder back down. Jason then followed behind me. I packed my camera into my bag and put my light cashmere sweater on. We were back to where the big LED lights faced out. I remember staring at this a couple years before and enjoyed the thought of such a tall, beautiful building. New memories like this always make me appreciate and compare my past experiences.
“Wow, I can’t believe we’ve done it,” I said. Jason looked at me and started laughing about how hilarious and insane this situation was.
“We’ve really done it this time,” Jason said. We were all packed and ready to leave the roof. I looked one last time and started heading down the spiral staircase. On the way down, we saw small, circular windows that gave us the first and last views from the roof. We then came to the end of the staircase and the gate that was opened with my key. I looked back at Jason and looked out to see if any workers were there waiting for us. I took a deep breath and pushed the bar. It was almost over. We walked over to the elevators and took it down to the sixtieth floor, where we would transfer to the lobby elevator. The doors opened, and I clicked the button for the next elevator. We waited for a good three minutes for the elevator to come. By then, we started getting worried about the security catching on. We heard a ring from behind us, and the elevator door started to open. It fully opened, and it wasn’t filled with police… phew. We got in and pressed the lobby. The elevator down was nerve-wracking. I could only think of the worst… getting caught. We whirred down the flights and finally arrived at the lobby. The elevator door clicked open and opened to a full lobby of not police, but gold rimmed chandeliers, and the exit! We took a right from the elevator trying to act as normal as possible. We came up to the door, and it was blocked by red velvet rope. I looked at Jason, and we quickly turned around. This meant we had to leave from the main entrance. We walked toward the turnstiles and walked straight through them.
“Have a nice night, guys,” the doorman said.
We both looked at him and nodded. We walked out and looked at each other with the most “I can’t believe we just did that” look.
“You know what this calls for,” I said.
“Mission accomplished Snapchat videos!” We both put on our bandanas and went across the street to a plaza. We did our handshake and stared at 40 Wall. We then parted ways and had to explain to our moms why we came home so late.