Page last updated at 08:56 GMT, Saturday, 4 July 2009 09:56 UK

Statue of Liberty crown reopens

By Matthew Price
BBC News, New York


The view from the Statue of Liberty's crown

It was Monday 10 September 2001 when a tourist last pressed a camera up against a tiny window in the Statue of Liberty's crown and took a snap looking back towards Manhattan.

The view then was dominated by the twin towers of the World Trade Center.

The next morning, before Liberty Island had opened to tourists for the day, planes flew into the towers, and they disappeared.

Ever since, the Statue of Liberty's crown has been closed to the public.

"What's the point of going two thirds of the way up?" asked Mike, an Australian tourist.

He was on the pedestal on which the Statue of Liberty stands. It is the closest visitors have been able to get to the crown for some years now.

View of the Lady Liberty's arm from the window of the crown of the Statue of Liberty during a media tour 20 May  2009
Magnificent monument but to be honest not the most stunning view

"It's just nice to be able to reach the peak."

"Peak" might sound like the wrong word - but the climb up makes it feel something like that.

There are 354 steps to the crown, the last 150 or so up a tight and claustrophobic spiral staircase which winds up inside what you might call Liberty's skeleton.

Before the 11 September attacks, and before security became such a consistent concern for those managing America's tourist sites, visitors would queue up the stairs, shuffling up one at a time, kids complaining, sometimes for an hour or more.

That can be very hot. It is consistently warmer inside the metal shell of Liberty than it is outside.

Rethinking security

Last year, three million tourists visited Liberty Island on which the statue stands.

Liberty's re-opening is yet another sign of how the new president is determined to rethink the focus on national security which dominated his predecessor's time in office

Once it reopens, just 240 tourists will be allowed up each day - in groups of no more than 10 at a time - and they will all have to book well in advance.

The view is not the most stunning in New York. The statue is orientated so that it is looking east, towards France - the country which built and gave the statue to the US in celebration of that country's 100th year of independence.

So the tiny windows of Liberty's crown look east too, across the flat expanse of New York harbour, past the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, and out towards the Atlantic.

To see that now-changed view of Manhattan, you have to crane your neck round to the left, and peek out back towards the island.

Do not be put off though - this is one of the most recognised tourist sites in the world.

As you approach Liberty Island it is impossible not to be drawn in by the statue's impassive gaze.

It is a magnificent monument, an icon standing on the edge of one of the world's greatest cities.

Being in the crown feels a little like peering from the top of the Eiffel Tower, or looking down the Thames from Tower Bridge - you feel as if you are somewhere special.

Looking out, you can catch a glimpse of the oxidised green copper of the statue's arm, though it is hard to see the famous torch from inside. You can also see the points of her crown- looming out from the head in which you're standing.

So it will be a thrill for those tourists who make it up the staircase.

Statue of Liberty
The statue faces towards France, which donated it to the US

The re-opening of the crown also has a wider significance.

It is yet another sign of how the new President, Barack Obama, is determined to rethink the focus on national security which dominated his predecessor's time in office.

As one American tourist visiting the statue said, it is a sign to her at least that "America is becoming a better place again."

A young girl by her side added: "9/11 doesn't mean you should close something down forever, because people love the Statue of Liberty. It's part of our nation. It's kinda good they're reopening it."

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