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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, Nov. 28, 2014

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The glass observation boxes are located on the top floor of the Sears Tower. They opened to the public less than a week ago.
The glass observation boxes are located on the top floor of the Sears Tower. They opened to the public less than a week ago.
My son's reaction to being "suspended" in the sky.
My son's reaction to being "suspended" in the sky.

On the ledge of the Sears Tower

CHICAGO -- Yesterday, while on a day trip in Chicago, my family and I squeezed into a packed elevator and rode 103 floors -- that’s 1,353 feet -- to the top of the Sears Tower, 233 S. Wacker Dr.

I didn’t feel a single flutter of anxiety until I saw the new glass boxes that hang from the tower’s facade and allow visitors to "step off the ledge." The glass boxes -- which opened to the public on Thursday, July 2 -- jut out 4 1/2 feet from the tower and are completely transparent, supported by steel beams.

It’s an extremely freaky feeling to step into one of the boxes and see exactly what it looks like to free fall from a quarter-mile in the sky. The panoramic view is both terrifying and breathtaking, and I’m not even afraid of heights.

I did not see a single sign stating a weight limit -- or person limit -- for the boxes, and I found it slightly unnerving that visitors were piling into them like they did the elevator. (Later, I learned that each box can hold at least five tons.)

My kids were super eager to test them out, and I admit I may have directed them towards a box that appeared to have lighter people on board. I know this makes little sense considering that each box could hold an elephant, but the high altitude might have enhanced my irrational mom fears.

One woman stepped into a box and stepped right back out. "I can’t do it," she said to me with wild, wide eyes. My sons, however, jumped up and down (!) from inside the box and yelled out, "Whoa! This is cool!"

I stood in one of the glass spaces for about a minute. I felt like Wile E. Coyote from the old Road Runner cartoons when he ran off the edge of a cliff and always froze in mid-air for a second or two, sometimes just to open an umbrella, before plunging to the ground.

Then I thought, "I think I see my dad," which is what Cameron said in the 1986 comedy "Ferris Bueller’s Day Off" when he looked down from the top floor of the Sears Tower.

Finally, I thought about glass, and how, in my lifetime, I have seen it crack, smash, explode and shatter. And that’s exactly when I stepped out of the box.

Talkbacks

blugold95 | July 9, 2009 at 10:48 a.m. (report)

The CN Tower in Toronto also has a glass floor. I nervously stood on in while there on a girls' weekend last year. Very trippy!

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rjgwood | July 8, 2009 at 5:10 p.m. (report)

We were to take a trip to the Grand Canyon in January, and I was really looking forward to walking their new glass loop sidewalk that extends out over the canyon floor. There was no way Voot or Alana would have done it, but I was ready. We had to postpone our trip, but this coming January - I'll be out on the circle of glass. Maybe I should test my nerves by hitting the Sears Tower!

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devidia | July 8, 2009 at 1:04 p.m. (report)

Gotta give you props, Molly!! I'm afraid of heights (I even had trouble going up to the Polaris restaurant after seeing all the floors from the inside!) and I don't think I could have even gone up in the Sears Tower much less stood on the glass. No, sir. Don't like heights at all.

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