Return to Liberty: America's most famous statue reopens her crown

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The Independent US

The Statue of Liberty reopened her crown to the public yesterday for the first time since the 9/11 terrorist attacks eight years ago. The first 10 visitors to pass through the inner sanctum of the 122-year-old statue since it was closed for "safety and security reasons" in 2001 marked the country's 4 July Independence Day celebrations by gazing out through her eyes at the Manhattan skyline.

The base, as well as the enormous pedestal and observation deck, reopened to the public in 2004, but the crown had remained closed – until now. There had been fears that in the event of another assault, tourists would not be able to evacuate the narrow, 168-step, double-helix spiral staircase that leads to the 305ft apex in time to avoid a similarly devastating loss of life.

Now, returning visitors, who will be hustled through at a pace of only 30 people an hour, will find little changed, save for a raising of the handrails on the spiral staircase and the increased presence of rangers stationed throughout the statue.

She may be an old lady, dedicated to the US as a gift from France in 1886, but the Statue of Liberty is now "tweeting" virtual e-tours to millions across the globe, courtesy of social networking site Twitter. The "tweets" have given helpful, tongue-in-cheek tips such as how to get through security, titled "No bag ladies allowed", and offer a virtual treasure trove of trivia. Liberty's smile is three feet wide, for example, and she is covered in copper – the thickness of which is the equivalent of two pennies stacked together.

Tickets for the crown's reopening went on sale on 13 June and sold out within hours. The National Park Service expected between 10,000 and 15,000 people to visit the 12-acre Liberty Island yesterday. On any given day, however, only 240 will be allowed to climb the 354 steps to the crown. Liberty will remain open for the next two years, whereupon work on a "long-term solution that will improve safety and security permanently" is set to begin.

When Liberty's highest point reopens, around 2013, about 480 people a day – double today's limit – should be able to reach her crowning glory.

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