Visitors poured off the ferry Thursday to greet the nation's gatekeeper. NBC's Katy Tur reports.
The Statue of Liberty reopened to visitors Thursday during an Independence Day ceremony, eight months after the island Lady Liberty calls home was flooded and destroyed by Superstorm Sandy.
The National Park Service closed the site just a day after the statue’s crown had been reopened following a year of renovations.
Nine long months have passed since anyone has been allowed to visit the Statue of Liberty due to damage from Superstorm Sandy, but the nation's gatekeeper will be welcoming visitors once again, starting fittingly on Independence Day. NBC's Katy Tur reports.
Even though the storm surge covered 75 percent of the island, damaging New York Harbor docks and island walkways, as well as buildings and electrical systems, the statue managed to withstand the intensity of the storm.
“The statue's 126-year-old iron framework designed by Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel allowed for the Statue of Liberty to withstand the storm's intense winds,” the National Park Service said.
The agency brought in workers from all over the country to clean up the mess Sandy left behind. Meanwhile, it suggested moving the storm-battered security checkpoints to Ellis Island, which is a short ferry-ride away from Liberty Island. The New York Police Department argued that metal detectors should remain in Manhattan’s Battery Park to better ensure the safety of one of the nation’s most famous and visited landmarks.
The statue’s crown had been closed to visitors from 2001 to 2009, following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
"I don't know about you, but I'm getting a little sick and tired of opening and closing and re-opening the Statue of Liberty, so this time, I think we'll just keep it open," said David Luchsinger, the superintendent of the Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island at Thursday’s ceremony.
“It is hard to imagine a more appropriate or powerful way to commemorate our nation’s founding than to reopen the Statue of Liberty, which is a symbol throughout the world of the freedom America cherishes,” Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said, according to a U.S. Department of Interior press release.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez were also in attendance for the appropriately-timed event. “We've not only repaired damage from Sandy, but we've also taken steps to protect Liberty Island from major storms in the future – just as we’re doing in the rest of our city, too,” said Bloomberg.
National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis highlighted the importance of reopening the island to New York’s economy, which was also hurt by the storm. In 2011, one of the statue’s only typical years in recent history, 3.7 million people visited, contributing $174 million to the local economy, according to the press release.
Ellis Island, which was completely flooded in Sandy's aftermath, is still in a state of disrepair, according to the Department of Interior. It is estimated that once Ellis Island and Liberty Island are fully back in working order, the cost of repairs will total $77 million.
The skies will be dark at many military bases around the country as fireworks are canceled to save money under sequestration. NBC's Mark Potter reports.
Although portions of Liberty Island were still littered with boarded-up areas and construction equipment Thursday, a visitor from California, Elizabeth Bertero said, "It's stunning, it's beautiful. They did a great job rebuilding. You don't really notice that anything happened."
"I'm in awe of it," said Mel Burns of Brisbane, Australia, "It's a lot bigger than what I anticipated."
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.