It was muggy and hazy on my day, but I was still able to see most of the city as I jostled with camera-toting tourists pressed against the safety fences.
I probably would have been content with the view from 86. But my hosts assured me more was to come and quickly shuffled me off to yet another elevator. This one was manually operated and instead of floor numbers, it displayed our elevation. I watched as the numbers climbed from 1,050 feet up to 1,250.
I was now high inside the building's iconic spire. The 102nd floor was originally designed as a landing platform for dirigibles, with passengers unloading from the airships via a gangplank. High winds and strong updrafts made that impractical and the idea was abandoned after a few attempts.
Today, a tiny indoor observatory rests inside the top of the tower. The elevator ends here. So do the stairs. At last, I had made it to the top. Or so I thought.
Every article I had read about the Empire State Building refers to it as a 102-story building. I had never heard of anything higher.
Then Ghazi led me to an unmarked door and took out a key. Behind it was a ladder going even higher.
At the top was an attic-like space filled with pipes, wires and electrical boxes. A hatch on the ceiling was built to drop in passenger luggage from the dirigibles.
The only thing above me now was the giant TV and radio antenna New York stations use to broadcast their signals.
I was led to a glass door with a big sign warning, "Beyond this point: Radio frequency fields at this site may exceed FCC rules for human exposure."
Oh great. If my fear of heights wasn't enough, now I had to be worried about invisible rays frying me to death. Ghazi pointed to green and red warning lights and assured me that since the green one was on, we were safe.
So I stepped out onto the tiny ledge about three feet wide. And then I hugged the walk, gripping tiny metal hooks bolted into the wall. There were no fences up here, making for a spectacular view. The only protection was a barrier that didn't even come up to my waist.
I have hiked taller mountains and love to go rock climbing. But for some reason, when standing on this tiny ledge all I could think about was a big gust of wind sending me tumbling to my death on Fifth Avenue.
With that thought, I posed for a photograph, snapped a few of my own and rushed back inside.
Back at the building's base is a private "celebrity walk," a special waiting area with photos of all the famous folks who have visited the Empire State Building. Some call ahead and others are pulled out of line.
But not all made it up to the 103rd floor, including Hillary Duff, Mariah Carey, Tom Cruise, Susan Boyle and Dr. Ruth Westheimer. When asked if they didn't make the trip for a fear of heights, the building's staff said some people have very busy schedules and just have time for a quick ride to the 86th floor.
The photos of those who did make it were glamorous, as always. But upon further inspection, I could have sworn I saw a glimmer of fear in all of their eyes.
With that knowing bit of satisfaction, I headed out to the street, my knees still trembling.