Just before dawn this past Sunday, a skinny New Jersey teen with a daredevil’s love of heights allegedly wiggled through a one-by-one-foot hole in the fence surrounding One World Trade Center. He made his way past two security guards and went all the way up to the symbolic spire of America’s tallest building, built to be an icon of freedom.
For two hours, the 16-year-old, identified as Justin Casquejo from Weehawken, took in the panoramic view and snapped photos of the glistening night-lit landscape, authorities said, as first reported by the New York Post. When he made his way back down, a construction worker stopped him and called Port Authority police, who took him into custody and charged him with misdemeanor trespassing. His cellphone and camera were confiscated.
The youthful exploit jolted officials in charge of security at ground zero, the site of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. “We take security and these types of infractions extremely seriously and will prosecute violators," said Joseph Dunne, chief security officer for the Port Authority, in a statement. "We continue to reassess our security posture at the site and are constantly working to make this site as secure as possible."
But the stunt appears to represent something entirely different to Justin.
Based on his Twitter feed and those linked to his friends – as well as photos posted previously on social media sites – the teen is apparently part of a daredevil “parkour” crew called “Team Destiny.” It’s a group of fearless teens who apparently sneak into high places, especially at construction sites, and take photos of their exploits.
Parkour, originally a French word, is a daring pastime born on urban streets, in which young adventurers, skateboarders, and others use public spaces as a rebels’ playground. The more daring and reckless the exploit, the more “street cred” a player gains.
Kids who engage in parkour often post their feats on social media sites, including YouTube. Justin’s social media accounts had posted a number of photos that appear to be taken at the top of public buildings with a panoramic view. In particular, his Facebook and Twitter accounts contain photos posted earlier this month of another apparent dangerous climb, to the top of a Weehawken construction crane.
The teen is also shown gazing and pointing at One World Trade as he stands across the Hudson.
As news of the exploit broke, Justin tweeted Thursday morning, “Shout out to my parkour team Destiny.”
Comments apparently by the crew reveal an attitude of fun-loving youthful recklessness, detached from the seriousness of the breach in site security.
“Haha team destiny is going places,” was a tweet from the account under the name Steven Peralta, @BabyDickSteve, who was linked to Justin’s “shout out” tweet.
“Ahhh! This is just the beginning! Let's goo!!!!!!” tweeted $osa, @KingTjay1, posting a news story about his Twitter friend’s new infamy.
As word of Justin’s feat spread through the Twitterverse, the tag #FreeJustin was already gaining support from like-minded youths across the nation, many gushing about the One World Trade parkour.
Justin is no longer in custody, however.
According to the criminal complaint, the teen had canvassed ground zero and planned his exploit carefully.
“I walked around the construction site and figured out how to access the Freedom Tower rooftop,” he told police afterward. “I found a way up through the scaffolding, climbed onto the sixth floor, and took the elevator up to the 88th floor. I then took the staircase up to 104th (floor). I went to the rooftop and climbed the ladder all the way to the antenna.”
After he apparently found the small opening in the perimeter fence, an unsuspecting elevator operator brought Justin – who was without ID and may have donned construction apparel – to the 88th floor. Here, the teen walked passed a sleeping security guard before making his way to the spire.
The elevator operator has since been reassigned, and the sleeping guard was fired.
As officials grapple with this major breach in security at the World Trade Center site, where terrorist attacks destroyed the twin towers on Sept. 11, 2001, Justin remained jubilant when contacted by reporters.
“Ha ha, oh yeah, that. Right. I would really love to talk to you guys because I have a lot that I want to say about it,” he told the Post. “I was told that I just can’t [talk] without permission.”
On Wednesday, he summed up his adventure in a one-word tweet: “Inspired.”