LIBERTY ISLAND—Liberty Island, on which sits the Statue of Liberty, reopened on July 4, the first time since Superstorm Sandy.
Flags were waved, ribbons cut, and speeches made. It was a joyous occasion, but, as David Luchsinger, Superintendent of the Statue of Liberty, pointed out, it is the third reopening of at least some part of the Statue since 2009.
“I don’t know about you, but I’m getting sick and tired of opening and closing the Statue of Liberty,” Luchsinger said to hearty laughs from the gathered crowd. “I think this time we will just leave it open.”
The crowd, which included dignitaries as well as local and federal elected officials, gave a resounding cheer.
The floodwaters of Sandy came close to the granite pedestal built specially for Lady Liberty, but did no damage to the statue itself.
The grounds on the egg-shaped island were another story. Pavers on walkways were overturned, the docks heavily damaged, and phones, water and electricity cut off on the island.
Neighboring Ellis Island, which was critical in receiving immigrants to this country during America’s early days, was completely overwhelmed with water. It is still closed while undergoing repairs and Parks officials said they would have a better idea by September of when the island would reopen.
Crews have worked around the clock to restore the popular tourist destination just in time for America’s birthday.
“It is a huge job,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis. “When you are working with the Statue of Liberty, let’s just say, the lights are on you to do a good job.”
Stacey Thomas, 47, and her family were among the first patrons on the Island on Thursday morning. Her family, from Chattanooga Tenn., were enjoying their first trip to New York City, which happened to coincide with the reopening.
“To be here on the 4th of July is extra special,” Stacey Thomas said. “You stand back in awe of the history of this place, the statue, and what it means.”
Her daughter, Sera, 14, said, “It’s amazing. It is a lot bigger than I thought.”
“I like being out here on the 4th of July. It’s a great sense of national pride to be out here,” Stacey’s son, Sam Thomas, 16, said.
The Thomas family did not get tickets to visit the crown of the Statue, which had just reopened one day prior to Superstorm Sandy hitting New York on October 29, 2012. Tickets are limited to roughly 400 per day, and are sold out for July.
Work will continue to finish upgrading Liberty Island, enhancing the experience for locals and for visitors from around the world.
“This is mission for us. It is deeply heartfelt that our job in the National Park Service is to provide these places for the enjoyment of all citizens,” said Jarvis. “It is one of the most enduring icons of America and we pulled it off. It’s open today and welcome.”