I have always wanted to see the Statue of Liberty.  Although I’ve seen many monuments from around the world – such as Paris’ beloved Eiffel Tour, India’s Taj Mahal and Beijing’s Forbidden City – I had never quite made it to the Statue of Liberty, the symbol of freedom and the representation of American ideals.

I have been to New York City many times before, however, every time I was there the timing was never quite right and I had never had the chance to see Liberty. It felt just plain odd and somewhat embarrassing that as a 42-year-old world traveler, I had never seen America’s most iconic symbol.

the Statue of Liberty.

When I knew I was heading back to New York again for a conference, I made special plans to fly in a day early and put my regrets about not seeing the Statue of Liberty behind me. Little did I know that seeing Liberty, Ellis Island and the 9/11 Memorial and Museum all in one day under the continual threat of growing terrorism, would be an emotionally-charged experience that I would never forget.

Hundreds of years after Liberty arrived, her symbol of freedom remains, perhaps even stronger and more insistent than before. 

The Statue of Liberty

There she stands….rising tall and fighting for our freedom while the reminder of 9/11 looms in the distance.

“The Statue of Liberty is more than a monument. She is a beloved friend, a living symbol of freedom to millions around the world. This exhibit is her biography. It is a tribute to the people who created her, to those who built and paid for her, to the ideals she represents, and to the hopes she inspires”.  -Sign inside the Statue of Liberty Museum

As soon as I booked my airline ticket to New York, I went online to make reservations for a tour to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island with Statue Cruises. Unfortunately during high season you have to book online at least a few months in advance to get the prized “crown” tickets to be able to climb all the way up to Liberty’s crown. My ticket would only allow me to the Pedestal but the view was still amazing.

Statue of Liberty Cruise

Leaving Battery Park at the tip of Manhattan on our ferry.

It was a gorgeous, balmy fall day and I soon remembered that it was a Saturday making the crowds even bigger. Thankfully having purchased my tickets online in advance, I had a scheduled departure time and despite the enormous crowds I didn’t have to wait in long lines.

One thing I was unprepared for was the high level of security. To board the ferry each person had to go through airport-style security and I noticed the US Coast Guard was monitoring the water, air and land. Three surveillance planes continually looped around Battery Park, and servicemen dressed in face masks carrying some serious weapons and hidden walkie talkies loomed nearby. It was a rather eerie feeling given the fact that hundreds of years later we still are in constant need to fight for our freedom and protect our people and land.

 Statue of Liberty Cruise

US Coast Guard monitoring the waters.

I could hardly resist taking multiple shots of the sensational skyline as we cruised away from shore. People from all around the world were gathered together on the ferry to see Liberty. Just like on the subway, all languages, religions, and colors were represented. It did not feel like a single nation but instead the world.

In the distance, where the Twin Towers once hailed, was the reminder of what used to be and what continues to soar unstoppable in the sky.

We will not back down for freedom. 

I was rather emotional on the ferry and it was hard not to have tears well up in my eyes. No one will ever forget that day. The images, the horror, the insanity of 9/11. Seeing such an enormous empty space felt like a huge gaping hole that will never be sealed in the victims and their families’ hearts. The unthinkable inhumanity of mankind.

And then I saw her, in all her glory. Liberty. It was hard not to shed a tear.

She is magnificent.

The Statue of Liberty

Liberty stands 151 feet (46.02 meters) tall and is made of stone, marble and bronze, all heavy and costly materials.

The Statue of Liberty was a gift from the French people commemorating the alliance of France and the United States during the American Revolution. Designed by French sculptor Auguste Bartholdi, the gift represented more than simple generosity. It represented freedom and democracy at a time when France was fighting for its own.

“The Statue of Liberty is a tapestry of old symbols woven together to create new meaning. Her classical face and drapery suggest a Roman Goddess of Liberty; the broken shackles symbolize freedom newly achieved; the radiant crown represents her shedding light on the seven seas and continents. The table she holds, inscribed in Roman numerals July 4, 1776 identifies the figure as an apostle of American freedom, law and justice”.

-Statue of Liberty Museum

I found that the more I learned about the meaning and symbolism behind Liberty, the more I loved her.

“My only ambition has been to engrave my name at the feet of great men and in the service of grand ideas”.  – Auguste Bartholdi (1834-1904)

The Statue of Liberty

“Liberty” was a controversial idea in the 19th century. To many people it suggested violence and revolution. Laboulaye and Bartholdi agreed that their monument should not be seen as leading an uprising, bur rather as lighting the way, peacefully and lawfully.

-Statue of Liberty Museum

Although one man designed her, it took an army of people to bring Liberty into fruition. Liberty was assembled in several stages from 1876-1884.  She was built in Paris and shipped disassembled to America arriving on June 19, 1885.  Reassembling Liberty did not begin until 1886 after the pedestal was completed and Liberty as we know her today was finally standing tall on October 28, 1886. Below is a photo taken of that day when Liberty was unveiled to one million onlookers in wet, rainy New York.

Statue of Liberty unveiled

Photo from the Statue of Liberty Museum.

The Statue of Liberty museum was fascinating. I could have spent hours inside reading all about the remarkable history leading up to how and why Liberty was made. Yet Ellis Island remained as well as the 9/11 Memorial. Here were a few things I found fascinating inside the museum.

Statue of Liberty

How the feet were made.

Statue of Liberty

As I left the museum and boarded the ferry to Ellis Island, I thought about what Liberty has meant to so many people who came to the United States hoping for a better life and future. Freedom. Perseverance. Hope. I think of my ancestors boarding the ship from Europe, sailing into New York’s harbor and seeing Liberty for the first time. It is hard to imagine how it must have felt.

With so much hate and intolerance in the world, I sincerely hope that freedom rings.

the Statue of Liberty.

View of Manhattan skyline from the Statue of Liberty.

“Life without liberty is like the body without spirit”.  – Kahil Gibran

the Statue of Liberty.

View of Ellis Island from the Statue of Liberty.

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” – John F. Kennedy

the Statue of Liberty

View of NYC

“The attacks of September 11th were intended to break our spirit. Instead we have emerged stronger and more unified. We feel renewed devotion to the principles of political, economic and religious freedom, the rule of law and respect for human life. We are more determined than ever to live our lives in freedom”. –Rudolph W. Giuliani. December 31, 2001.

New York City Skyline

“Today we are engaged in a deadly global struggle for those who would intimidate, torture, and murder people for exercising the most basic freedoms. If we are to win this struggle and spread those freedoms, we must keep our own moral compass pointed in a true direction.” – President Obama

the Statue of Liberty.

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others”. – Nelson Mandela

Can we ever achieve real, unthreatened freedom?

the Statue of Liberty

Military surveillance at Battery Park and around the Statue of Liberty.

Thanks to the Statue of Liberty Museum for inspiring and educating me on the amazing creation and significance of the Statue of Liberty.

“Let Freedom Ring”


  1. I climbed to the crown of the statue back in 1978 in my Girl Scout uniform. I was in High School. We were dismayed to learn that we weren’t allowed to ascend to the torch that day. The next time I saw Liberty, I was in Paris on a boat in the Seine. That Liberty is a bit smaller, and I was quite surprised to see it there. The next time I saw Liberty, it was in June of 2001 with my 4 kids. We weren’t allowed to climb, or we didn’t have time, I don’t remember which. We were off to Ellis Island museum as well. That was only a few months before the terrorist attacks. I don’t know what my kids thought, really, or if they had emotions about their personal connection with the city when September rolled around. I do know that we brought them there. I doubt there’s a universal experience with that symbol, but I’m sure there are many profound ones.

    1. I love that! Climbing to the top in your girl scout uniform sounds grand! It was a very emotional visit and day for me. I think the 9/11 museum and monument just blew me away with sadness and hope in some odd sense at the same time.

  2. A wonderful post! I was at Liberty and Ellis Island about 5 years ago and it was a favorite site. I love your photos, especially the black and white and how you put this post together with information from the Statue of Liberty museum amongst your own impressions. A favorite!

    1. So glad you enjoyed Andrew. I just sat there and thought of all my ancestors coming through this way. My dad’s side came from Sweden and Germany and my mom’s side from Russia a few generations back. I’ll never forget my great-Grandmother who only spoke in Russian and was from another world.

      1. We seem to have a lot in common Nicole. All my grandparents came from Russia. I often wonder what they would have made of our lives today, which are so different in every way to theirs.

  3. I climbed to the top several years ago, before 9/11. It was a wonderful experience, one I will never forget. I’m. It surprised you were emotional about your experience. I can imagine the hopes and dreams of those coming into the harbour to start a new life, including my family from Finland in the early 1900s.

    1. Yes, there is something truly magical about seeing the Statue of Liberty up close. Looking now at that gaping hole were the Twin Towers were really hit me too. I thought of my ancestors coming from Sweden, Germany and Russia many years ago and wondered what they thought when they saw her rising to the sky. How their journey was and if life here was what they had hoped for.

  4. Wonderful post, Lisa. We went up to the crown, about 20 years ago, before all the tight security had to be put in place. Every time I see this statue, it gives me a thrill. She stands so tall and proud and is so magnificent. 🙂

  5. What a wonderful post. Your words flowed from the heart and your images captured the essence of the experience of visiting Lady Liberty. I must admit that the last photo truly brought tears to my eyes – such an incredibly powerful image. Well done!

    1. Thank you so much. It was hard to put into words how I felt and yes that last image really impacted me. Seeing the empty space where the Twin Towers once were as the Liberty rose up to the sky was something else. Yet the military planes and SWAT teams there reminded me that freedom is something we cannot take for granted and must still fight for just like our ancestors did.

  6. Lady Liberty definitely inspired you! My favorite photo is the one taken of the passengers on the ferry and the NYC skyline. I’ve visited Lady Liberty numerous times and she always brings tears to my eyes. Thanks for sharing this history, Nicole.

  7. I “visited” the statue back in the late seventies when we were leaving New York on a cruise with my

    SO—–yeah, I’ve been gone a long time. I know! But we moved. It’s Ecuador. And we just got our internet TWO days ago! LONGGGGGGGG story!

    I’ve missed you, my friend! Thanks for your patience!

    Hugs from Ecuador,

    1. Hi Kathy! I’ve missed your blogging! I saw you just posted one on Haiti but I hadn’t heard about you for months and was getting worried! What have you and Sara been up to? Still working on your memoir? Hope all is well! 🙂 N

  8. I loved this post Nicole. You had such a clear day when you went to see Lady Liberty. We were only able to book a tour over to the island and unfortunately the day was somewhat hazy but that did not deter from the lady’s grandeur. The Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and the 911 Memorial and Museum were three of our favorite stops while we were in NYC. I look forward to reading more.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.