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