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Lady Liberty to reopen her crown, as the US gets comfortable with post-9/11 security

On the Fourth of July, for the first time in almost eight years, visitors to the statue will be able to climb the spiraling stairs.

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On July 4, visitors to the Statue of Liberty will again be able to climb the narrow, 168 spiraling stairs to her crown. It will be the first time since 9/11, when the terrorist attacks shut down the beloved symbol of freedom.

The decision to reopen the interior of the statue marks a change in the United States as well: The nation has grown more comfortable with the security requirements imposed by the threat of terrorism, say homeland security experts. As a result, America is also more confident in promoting freedom and opportunity – the country's original raison d'être (to use a French phrase in honor of the people of France, who gave Lady Liberty to the country in 1886).

For generations, the statue has been one of the most recognized icons of the US. Its inscription – "Give me your tired, your poor,/ Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free ..." – remains a beacon of hope to millions of people around the world.

"The fact that Al Qaeda had held her hostage was symbolically the wrong message to send," says Frank Cilluffo, director of the Homeland Security Policy Institute at George Washington University, whose father felt welcomed to the US when he saw the statue from his plane on arriving from Italy. "All that said, hopefully it doesn't mean we're lulled into a sense of complacency, rather that freedom comes with risks and we are learning to manage them accordingly."

The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island were shut down immediately after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. The statue remained closed for three years, during which the interior underwent a $20 million renovation and security upgrade. When the monument reopened in August 2004, visitors were allowed only into the 10-story pedestal and the observation deck. They could look up through a glass ceiling at the interior of the statue, but it remained closed.

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