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Welcoming the masses anew

The lofty crown of the Statue of Liberty, closed to the public since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, will reopen July 4, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced Friday.

Salazar made the announcement on NBC’s “Today” show in an appearance standing inside the statue’s crown, which he said gave him “goose bumps.”

Admission will be “egalitarian,” the secretary said.

The National Park Service is devising a plan for those wishing to climb the narrow, circular staircase of 168 steps inside the statue to the crown.

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The agency said access would be limited to 10 people at a time, guided by a ranger.

The statue, a gift to the United States from France, was shipped in pieces to New York in 1885. The completed statue was dedicated in October 1886, and since then has stood as a symbol of freedom in New York Harbor on what is now known as Liberty Island.

The reopening of the statue’s crown will take place on Independence Day -- the anniversary of July 4, 1776, the date inscribed on the tablet that Lady Liberty holds in her hand.

Salazar said park service employees were being trained on ways to usher selected visitors up and down the single narrow stairway inside the statue.

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He acknowledged that reopening the crown would entail risks, but he also said that visitors would undergo “double screening” for security purposes.

Although the crown has been closed to the public since the attacks on New York and the Pentagon nearly eight years ago, the base, pedestal and lower observation deck have since been reopened to the public.

NBC’s Matt Lauer also asked Salazar, a former Colorado senator, whether he wanted to be considered for the nomination to the Supreme Court that President Obama was weighing.

Salazar said he liked his job. Asked by Lauer if “that’s a no,” the secretary said, “That’s a no.”

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mdsilva@tribune.com


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