Lady Liberty Back In Business

Jaeyun Jeon, left, Jack Jeon, 8, Brian Jeon, 12, and Kim Jeon of Paegu, South Korea, pose for a family photograph outside the Statue of Liberty on New York's Liberty Island, Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2004, the first day since September 11, 2001 that tourists are allowed inside the statue. AP

Hailed once again as a beacon of hope, the Statue of Liberty welcomed back huddled masses of tourists Tuesday for the first time since it was shut down after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Interior Secretary Gale Norton was on hand to officially open the doors, and a military choir sang George M. Cohan's "It's a Grand Old Flag" before the crowd rose for the national anthem.

"This beacon of hope and liberty is once again open to the public, sending a reassuring message to the world that freedom is alive in New York and shining brighter than ever before," Gov. George Pataki said.

Plans to reopen Lady Liberty's pedestal to the public went ahead despite new warnings over the weekend of possible terrorist attacks on financial centers in nearby Manhattan, Newark, N.J., and Washington, D.C.

"I think it shows the world that liberty cannot be intimidated," Assistant Interior Secretary Craig Manson said during a media preview tour Monday. "I think it's significant that despite the raising of the alert levels, we are still going ahead with the reopening."

Visitors can tour a reopened museum inside the pedestal and enjoy a panoramic view from the observation deck at the pedestal top, about 16 stories above ground. The rest of the statue continues to be off-limits because it cannot accommodate large numbers of tourists and does not meet safety codes.

"Whether this is your first visit or one of many, I know this will be a memorable one," site superintendent Cynthia Garrett told the crowd.

Tickets for tours inside Lady Liberty's base sold out quickly, at $10 a head for adults and $4 for children, and some visitors paid scalpers for tickets. Italian army lieutenants Dario Coleanni and Vincenzo Pepe paid scalpers $20.

"It's my first time in the U.S.," said Coleanni, 26, who's stationed in Rome. "I'm interested in seeing what's important in America: the Statue of Liberty."

"Seeing it is the most important thing to do here," Pepe said.

Tightened security measures at the 118-year-old national monument include a new anti-bomb detection device that blows a blast of air into clothing and then checks for particles of explosive residue. Bomb-sniffing dogs also were present during the preview.

Liberty Island, the statue's 12-acre home, was closed for 100 days after Sept. 11, 2001. The second of two terrorist-hijacked jetliners had skimmed low over the statue just seconds before it crashed into the World Trade Center's south tower 1 1/2 miles away. Airport-type metal detectors were installed to screen visitors boarding the ferry from lower Manhattan, and the island was reopened in December 2001.

While the pedestal now is open, too, Larry Parkinson, deputy assistant Interior secretary for law enforcement and security, said it was unlikely that visitors will have access to the statue's interior spiral staircases in the foreseeable future.

The pedestal museum tells the story of the statue, from its dedication in 1886 as a gift from France to its rededication after a major overhaul a century later. An alternative tour allows visitors to stroll the promenade atop the star-shaped former fort on which the statue and its pedestal rise.

Not all Americans have been waiting patiently for Lady Liberty's return. Iris and Mort November have made do with the one in their own back yard.

The Novembers, reports CBS News Correspondent Richard Schlesinger, have filled their lives and their house with more than 2,000 replicas and reminders: tiny and tacky of the statue called Lady Liberty.

Give Iris November your tired, give her your poor, just don't give her any more statues. Her collection has already overflowed into a museum in Rochester, N.Y., where they are hard to ignore.

"I'm known as tacky," she says. "I am the queen of tacky."

Her mother sailed past the statue about 100 years ago, when she came to this country. And Iris November heard about it all through her childhood.

She says she feels a connection to the statue

"She just stands there, and we look at her, and she's just a statue, but she's not," says Iris November. "She's really an expression of love for everybody and the chance to be free."
  • Jaime Holguin

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