Statue Of Liberty's Crown Reopens

For the first time since the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001, New Yorkers can view their city from Lady Liberty's crown.

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GUY RAZ, host:

And just across the water from Coney Island, at Liberty Island, the Statue of Liberty did something she hasn't done in almost eight years. She had visitors up to her crown to take in the view. That crown has been off limits since the attacks of September 11th, 2001.

Ben Calhoun was there, and he sent this report.

BEN CALHOUN: The sun was just barely this morning when the first people on their way to the Statue of Liberty's crown arrived at the docks. They gathered in Battery Park, on the southern tip of Manhattan. Soon, they made their way through a tent and some air-port-style security. Then, they hopped on a ferry and took off for Liberty Island.

Near the front of the ferry, Andrea Balfour was sitting with her daughter Mona.

Ms. ANDREA BALFOUR: And today is Mona's birthday.

CALHOUN: Belfort says, Mona told her that for her birthday, Independence Day, she wanted to do something special.

Ms. BALFOUR: Two weeks ago, my daughter came to me, saying that she would like to go to the Statue of Liberty.

CALHOUN: Then, Balfour saw an ad for an essay contest for tickets to the reopening of the crown.

Ms. BALFOUR: You know, they call us a week after, that she was the winner and we're going to go to Statue of Liberty. I was like, yes. My dream comes true, you know?

CALHOUN: Just a few minutes later, Andrea Balfour and her daughter Mona put their feet down on Liberty Island.

Ms. MONA BALFOUR: I'm really excited. I never seen it this close before.

Ms. A. BALFOUR: We're excited. The Statue of Liberty. Yes. Freedom.

CALHOUN: Today is reopening of the statue's crown. It is the last of several reopenings for the monument, which was closed after the terrorist attacks of September 11th. The base of the statue has reopened since then.

But the National Park Service kept the crown off limits, citing safety concerns.

Mr. DARREN BOCH (Spokesman, National Park Service): Darren Boch, National Park Service. Testing one, two, three.

CALHOUN: Spokesman Darren Boch says the National Park Service had a few worries about reopening the crown. The first is the narrow spiral staircase going up.

Mr. BOCH: There's 354 steps to the crown, but it's the last 146 in the statue herself that becomes difficult for some people.

CALHOUN: Boch says those steps are always a (unintelligible), but get especially bad when it gets hot.

Mr. BOCH: Some days, it can be a hundred degrees on this island, 20 degrees hot or inside the statue. And so, we used to get a lot of heat-related injuries in the statue.

CALHOUN: Really? Like people passing out?

Mr. BOCH: Yes. People passing out.

CALHOUN: In preparation for today's reopening, the rails on the stairway were braced, and the park rangers now reserve the right to shut things down if it gets too hot.

Now, groups going up are also limited to 30 people per hour, which was exactly the number standing out the doors to the statue, as Interior Secretary Ken Salazar cut the red ribbon and let people in.

(Soundbite of applause)

About an hour later, the first visitors were making their way out of the statue.

Ms. ALEYNA BARTNICK: It's like I saw the whole, like, New York's bay.

CALHOUN: 8-year-old Aleyna Bartnick was there with her dad, Chris. Like a lot of visitors, Bartnick was surprised by how small the observation room is.

Ms. BARTNICK: Tiny.

CALHOUN: And she said, there were a lot of stairs.

Ms. BARTNICK: It was really long.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CALHOUND: But she smiled as she talked about it.

Ms. BARTNICK: I couldn't wait till we got to the crown and look out because I've never been there before.

CALHOUN: Her father, Chris Bartnick, said he was excited about taking Aleyna to the crown because it was a trip that years ago he made with his father.

Mr. CHRIS BARTNICK: She was only, you know, a baby when 9/11 happened. So, well, she had never been there and it was a great thing to be there and take her up there. And just, certainly something I did when I was a kid, you know? And hopefully, she'll show her kids.

CALHOUN: With the new safety regulations in place, park officials say about 200 people will be able to visit the Statue of Liberty's crown every day.

For NPR News, I'm Ben Calhoun in New York.

(Soundbite of music)

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7 Obscure Facts About The Statue Of Liberty

The Statue of Liberty's crown has 25 windows and seven spikes. i i

hide captionPresented to America by the people of France in 1886, the Statue of Liberty sits on a 12-acre island in New York Harbor. Her crown has 25 windows and seven spikes.

Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images
The Statue of Liberty's crown has 25 windows and seven spikes.

Presented to America by the people of France in 1886, the Statue of Liberty sits on a 12-acre island in New York Harbor. Her crown has 25 windows and seven spikes.

Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images
National Park Service park ranger Eugene Kuziw wipes sweat from his brow inside the crown. i i

hide captionNational Park Service park ranger Eugene Kuziw wipes sweat from his brow inside the crown of the Statue of Liberty on Thursday in New York City.

Chris Hondros/Getty Images
National Park Service park ranger Eugene Kuziw wipes sweat from his brow inside the crown.

National Park Service park ranger Eugene Kuziw wipes sweat from his brow inside the crown of the Statue of Liberty on Thursday in New York City.

Chris Hondros/Getty Images

Beginning July 4, the public will once again be able to clamber up into the crown of the Statue of Liberty. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar made the announcement on the Today show Friday while standing in the crown with host Matt Lauer.

The statue was closed for security reasons after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The base and other areas have since reopened. Salazar said about 30 people an hour will be able to visit the crown at first. New security measures and improvements eventually will enable about 200,000 people a year to get inside Lady Liberty's head.

"There is nothing that symbolizes what America is" more than the statue, Salazar said. Standing at the top "is awe-inspiring," he said. "It sends goosebumps down my shoulder blades, down to my spine."

The statue had no comment on how it made her feel.

Presented to America by the people of France in 1886, the statue sits on 12-acre Liberty Island in New York Harbor. It is just over 305 feet tall from the ground to the top of the torch flame. The crown has 25 windows and seven spikes.

Speaking of seven, here are ...

7 Obscure Facts About The Statue Of Liberty

Spike That Fact! The seven spikes represent the seven seas and seven continents of the world, according to the Web sites of the National Park Service and the Statue of Liberty Club. "That's not true," says Barry Moreno, author of The Statue of Liberty Encyclopedia and the park's official librarian. The spikes are sun rays, he says, and the circle is "simply a halo or what in art is called a nimbus, showing she is divine." He adds that the Web site needs to be changed.

Weight, Weight, Don't Tell Me! The statue is fashioned from copper atop an undergirding of steel. The copper in the statue weighs 31 tons, the steel weighs 125 tons and the concrete foundation is 27,000 tons.

Do Not Torch The statue's torch has been closed to the public since the "Black Tom" explosions in 1916. German agents sabotaged a munitions depot on a nearby island on July 30, 1916, and shrapnel damaged the statue's torch and skirt. Today, members of the National Park Service must scale a 40-foot ladder to tend to the floodlights in the torch.

Winds of Change When the wind blows 50 miles an hour, the statue sways three inches and the torch shifts five inches.

Give Me Liberty and Give Me Death Though the statue symbolizes hope and optimism to millions, it has been the setting for at least three suicides over the years, says Moreno. He believes the first may have been in 1929, when a young fellow, turned down by his girlfriend, threw himself from the crown. In 1997, the New York Daily News reported that a 30-year-old man from Senegal plunged 100 feet to his death. "All indications are that it was a suicide," said Manny Strumpf, the National Park Service spokesman at the time. There have been no murders that Moreno is aware of, but there was a 2006 novel titled Murder at the Statue of Liberty — by Manny Strumpf.

Liberty Goes Hollywood The Statue of Liberty has starred in films since cinema's early days. Charlie Chaplin featured it in his 1917 film The Immigrant. And Alfred Hitchcock used the statue as a backdrop for his 1942 feature film The Saboteur.

The Statue's Trident Vandalism is a perennial problem, park service officials say. When the crown was open, people put chewing gum all over the place and wrote their names with lipstick.

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