From left, Jess Burns, Zach Jamison and Nathan Mulls pose in front of the Statue of Liberty while on holiday from Australia on July 4, 2013. The Statue of Liberty reopened months after Superstorm Sandy hit the island.(Photo: Carucha L. Meuse, The (Westchester County, N.Y.) Journal News)
NEW YORK -- The Statue of Liberty, a beacon of hope for waves of
immigrants at the turn of the century - and these days a destination for
waves of tourists - reopened to the public Thursday, less than nine
months after the destruction caused by Superstorm Sandy.
October storm left three-quarters of Liberty Island underwater and
destroyed electrical, phone, water and sewage systems. Sandy struck just
a day after the statue had reopened following a yearlong renovation.
And before that, there was the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, which
kept visitors from the inside of the statue for nearly 9 years.
Officials said that they hoped that Thursday's re-opening - the statue's
fourth since 1986 - would be its last for a while. The statue has drawn
as many as 4 million visitors a year.
"I'm getting a little sick
and tired of opening and closing the Statue of Liberty," said Dave
Luchsinger, the Statue of Liberty National Monument's superintendent.
"This time, I think we'll just leave it open."
And this time, the
opening came with predictable patriotic fanfare, including a small
marching band clad in Revolutionary War replica uniforms; members of
Congress; Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell; and, of course, New
York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose pink-collared shirt was soaked
through with sweat as he waited on the dais for his turn to speak.
When he did, Bloomberg said that the statue was "at the heart of what America is really all about."
God we have people like the French," Bloomberg added, nodding to the
statue's history, as a gift from France in the 1880s.
also took the chance to make some pointed comments about climate change,
which he said was at the root of increasingly volatile weather
conditions across the country and, possibly, major events like Sandy.
an argument about climate change ... is myopic," Bloomberg said. "The
bottom line is that we have to prepare for the future."
Liberty Island's recovery, in which crews laid down 42,000 board-feet
of new deck, 2,000 feet of hedging, and new electrical, heating, and
cooling systems, stands in stark contrast to Ellis Island, which remains
Ellis Island was completely submerged after the storm,
threatening the island's archives, which were later removed by the
National Park Service Museum Emergency Response Team and taken to a
climate-controlled facility in Maryland, said Jonathan B. Jarvis, the
director of the Park Service.
And while work at Ellis Island
continues, Jarvis declined to give an estimate, of a re-opening date for
the island, saying that the challenges there were far greater.
"Ellis is still a process," he said.
hardly mattered to those on the ground Thursday at Liberty Island. Many
visitors were ecstatic, some having come from halfway across the world
to photograph and climb the stairs of the world's most famous monuments.
a felt Statue of Liberty crown and all smiles, Rick Perkins, 45, of
Little Rock, Ark., was one of the first off the ferry at Liberty Island,
around 8:45 a.m. Perkins said that he, his wife and two children had
been planning to come to New York for at least eight months, and were
only dimly aware that the Statue of Liberty had been closed for all of
that time. So having the re-opening coincide with their vacation turned
out to be perfect timing.
"One of the first things we wanted to do
is go to the Statue of Liberty," Perkins said. "This is something we've
always wanted to see."
Others who weren't lucky enough to score
Independence Day tickets to the island said that the reopening meant
something to them nonetheless.
Rick Burns, president of the
Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 49 of Westchester County, called the
statue a symbol of "our patriotism and our country."
He was not
at the statue's re-opening. Instead he was in Hastings-on-Hudson, where a
half-size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was to be on display
for a few days.
But that doesn't mean Burns wasn't thinking about Lady Liberty.
be nice to see the lady operational again," Burns said, adding that he
had been to Liberty Island but never up to the statue's famous crown.
"Maybe I'll add it to my bucket list."
Erik Shilling, The (Westchester County, N.Y.) Journal News