While attending National Search and Rescue School on Governor’s Island, New York in 1982, I spent many late afternoons watching the sun set behind the Statue of Liberty. The lure of Lady Liberty was unavoidable. During my stay at Governor’s Island, I rode the ferry from Battery Park in Lower Manhattan to Liberty Island. The visit was one of the most memorable “tourist moments” of my life.
She stood boldly in the middle of the harbor, unafraid and unthreatened, beckoning citizens and visitors from abroad alike to come and experience the freedom she proclaims. My trip on the ferry was relaxing and the atmosphere once on her island was like that of a picnic in the park. There were no crowds pushing or shoving. I walked along uncrowded pathways and enjoyed a picnic with the lawn nearly to myself. I climbed the stairs into Liberty’s crown with no interrogations or restrictions and stayed up there for what seemed like a long time taking in all the surrounding views. I felt honored to be allowed the privilege of the experience.
I hadn’t been back to see the Statue of Liberty since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, but I had been told the relaxed atmosphere was gone and for a time she was closed completely to tourists. That made me sad to think Lady Liberty had been stripped of some of her freedom. But, I thought “such is the cost of security” – the Statue of Liberty had to be protected should someone desire to do her harm.
We’ve studied the history of the Statue of Liberty as part of our homeschooling curriculum. Our daughter has always been fascinated by the statue and had it on her list of places to go. On a recent weekend trip, we were close enough for me to surprise her with a side trip to see Lady Liberty. I was shocked by the changes I found.
We embarked from the New Jersey side. Purchasing our tickets was easy. However, when we entered the line for the ferry, that’s where everything changed. We were funneled into a fenced security “corral” so to speak with about a couple of thousand other people from other cultures from all over the world. “Personal space” vanished. Pushing and shoving transitioned into me repeatedly elbowing the guy behind me in the solar plexus to keep him from crushing my daughter. We were put through a “TSA style” screening before being allowed to board. The ferry ride was the nicest part of the experience. On Liberty Island, there were so many people it was difficult to take pictures of my daughter with the statue. We couldn’t go into the base or up to the crown because we had not undergone additional Homeland Security screening to gain clearances allowing us to make the climb.
Getting back on the boat to return to shore was the same experience in reverse, only slightly more tolerable. Regrettably, we needed to stop at the restrooms in the old railway ticket building on our way to the parking lot. The sanitary conditions reminded me of the floors in an Ensenada jail. Don’t ask. We were glad to get in our Jeep and leave. I understand globalism and 9/11 changed a lot of what America once was. I guess I’ll just have to get used to a very different kind of Liberty.
© 2017 Curt Savage Media