Photo of the day: CARRYING THE TORCH OF FREEDOM – ( or . . . GETTING INSIDE A LADY’S HEAD ISN’T THAT EASY!) Having had the privilege to attend the opening of the Statue of Liberty’s crown on the 4th of July was a thrilling and very moving experience. The crowds were huge. The line in Battery Park to buy non reserved tickets was two hours in the heat. My reserved ticket line wait was only about 45 minutes. I bought the ticket May 7th on line the second they announced the reopening. Security everywhere is very tight. The screening tent is still at Battery Park and not at Ellis Island as at one point suggested, since Ellis Island is more destroyed than we thought. I was told by many of the park rangers (I kept asking again and again) when Ellis would open – the unanimous answer was “up to two years.” The damage was so severe to the understructure and main lobby and also the pier/harbor.
The boat ride to Liberty Island was just ‘different’ than usual. There was an electricity in the air of ‘being the first’. It was truly moving to see every color of skin, to hear so many different languages, all ages, all religions coming together to marvel at Auguste Bartholdi’s statue from France. The excitement on board was like little children about to see the Christmas tree. Everyone had huge smiles. We were there! The original landing pier is no longer in use – half of it was wiped away in hurricane Sandy. An old smaller pier at the tip of the island is now being used.
Security is over the top if you want to go into the crown. “No back packs!”. Fine I thought, so I bought myself a small fanny pack and carried my camera. I was stopped by security and asked what was inside the fanny pack. “My keys, phone, wallet, some pills, etc.” “No keys or change allowed,” I was told to my stunned surprise. You are forced the rent a $2.00 locker and have to leave yourself only with: wallet, phone, pills (if needed, but no liquids allowed) and a camera – that’s it! This caused quite an angry commotion by many of the tourists and I was quite annoyed myself, not even a fanny pack! Later I came to understand why = because the space in the crown is so very small.
Ok, into the restored pedestal. The park rangers greeted you with beaming smiles “Welcome Back!” they all cheered. Inside the ground floor of the pedestal is the original glass torch, beautifully restored. I decided to marvel at that later, the crown was waiting! The climb begins. Fair warning: if you have a heart condition, are overweight, claustrophobic, afraid of heights . . . this is not for you. Regular stairs at first in the pedestal, but then as you enter the statue herself, it still is that extremely narrow staircase wrapped around to what amounts to basically a large vertical pole. (Woody Allen once quipped: “The last time I was inside a woman was when I went to the Statue of Liberty”).
The last time I myself visited Lady Liberty was when I was in 3rd grade in 1964 with my classmate Dagmar Kiefert (we are still friends). To be climbing these stairs again 49 years later was an emotional climb. And then…you feel a breeze, you hear park ranger’s voices, you start to see light and then all of a sudden, it is as if you are living a movie-like dream – you are there! A view of New York’s harbor! It was surreal. My first reaction was ‘This is IT?!’ The space is so very much smaller than I had remembered as a tiny tot. Everything is bigger when you are in third grade. I was somewhat stunned. What to do first? Get someone to take my picture? Take pictures? Take it all in?? As welcomed as I felt, I felt rushed, who knows who is coming up the stairs next, and how many? Most of the ‘windows’ are now sealed with plexiglas, but some are opened on the right lower side. Three medium sized windows which I didn’t even realize were opened (I was that excited) and 3 porthole-type windows only about 12″ in diameter. I was advised to strap the camera around my wrist, stick your arm out the porthole window and you can photograph her torch. Incredible! I was too excited and emotional to concentrate on the quality of the photos, luckily I am going back on July 10th and will concentrate more on the photos, rather than the experience.
As you climb a few steps down, there comes the most haunting thing of all, you are inside her face! Sadly the structural beams hinder a decent photo, but it is almost more thrilling than the crown – so Alfred Hitchcock like. At certain points in the climb you can touch her skin and realize how thin it only is, 3/32 of an inch (about 2.5mm) thick, the same as two American pennies placed together. It is amazing that she has weathered all the storms in the harbor. Next stop is the pedestal on the way down and the view of Liberty Island and the city is breathtaking. *Don’t forget to look up at her!* Sadly you can see that many of the trees on Liberty Island are dying or dead from having been immersed in the salt water for so long after the hurricane. All the landscaping has been replaced with new sods of grass and the areas are roped off. The restaurant is opened again and I ate lunch by the waterside, listening to a little jazz trio playing, while literally watching the world go by, every nationality you can image. It was the ultimate American Independence Fourth of July Day I could have possibly spent and will treasure it for the rest of my life. I took hundred of photos and have so little time to edit and post them all, but here are a few for you to enjoy. HERE’S TO LIBERTY !
(More to come…)