Barring last-minute terrorism alerts or other problems, New York's Statue of Liberty will reopen to visitors today for the first time since the 2001 terrorist attacks that destroyed the nearby World Trade Centre.
National Park Service officials went ahead with the reopening plan despite warnings of terrorist threats to financial institutions, including the New York Stock Exchange in lower Manhattan and the World Bank and International Monetary Fund headquarters in Washington.
"I think it's significant that, despite the raising of the alert levels, we are still going ahead with the reopening," Assistant Interior Secretary Craig Manson said yesterday. "I think it shows the world that liberty cannot be intimidated."
The new warnings did not merit any delay in the reopening of the 117-year-old statue, said Larry Parkinson, the Interior Department's deputy assistant secretary for law enforcement and security.
"We were getting ramped up for it and already had measures in place that were absolutely appropriate for an orange level of security," Parkinson said.
Orange is the second-highest on the Department of Homeland Security's colour-coded scale of five threat levels. Most of the nation is at yellow, the middle level.
On Sunday, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the new terrorist alert for Washington, New York and New Jersey stemmed from intelligence suggesting car or truck bomb attacks - not something likely to occur on Liberty Island.
Since shortly after September 11, visitors to Liberty and Ellis islands have been passing through airport-type security checks before boarding ferries at lower Manhattan's Battery Park. There are more checks at the statue.
The latter include a device that blows air through clothing and tests for evidence of explosive particles. The State of Liberty is among the first sites with the technology.
On September 11, 2001, the second of two hijacked jetliners skimmed low over the statue just seconds before crashing into the World Trade Centre's south tower, 1.5 miles away. The 12 acres of Liberty Island were closed to the public for two months after the attacks.
Most of the 152-foot copper figure was sealed off to visitors and will remain so.
But visitors may choose between two tours: a walk around the promenade atop the star-shaped fort on which the statue stands or an elevator ride inside the pedestal to the calf level of the figure, about 10 stories high, to gaze upward through a glass partition at the steel girders and armatures holding it together and view the harbour panorama from a narrow observation deck.
Also reopening is a museum inside the base that details the history of the Statue of Liberty, including such artefacts as the original lit-from-within torch, which was replaced during a 1986 renovation with a gilded version lit from outside.
Parkinson said the government "has not foreclosed" the idea of eventually reopening the statue's body so visitors could once again climb to the crown, but safety factors make that unlikely.Reuse content