The Statue of Liberty has been witness to some of the most wondrous moments in American history, and to some of the most awful.
|Immigrants getting their first view of Lady Liberty|
Who knows precisely how many immigrant ships passed under her welcoming gaze? What is universal is the reaction of the immigrants to seeing her --- awe and gladness and joy, mixed with a healthy dose of fear of the unknown in the New World. Millions of New Americans came through the Golden Door where she so zealously stands sentinel.
But she has seen other things.
From 1886 to 1916, the entirety of the interior of the statue was accessible to the public. Crowds could visit, and still visit at a rate of 2.5 million per year, the head of the statue where they can gaze down upon New York Harbor through the 25 small windows set in her crown. Visitors to the torch had to be a bit braver, climbing a nearly vertical platform to emerge on a small balcony under the flame of the torch (which acted as a lighthouse for many years). Although vertiginous, the open-air view from 300 feet over the harbor was said to be awe-inspiring.
|Inside the crown|
|So glad to see you!|
|The ladder inside the torch-arm|
|The dizzying view from the torch|
In 1916, the United States was maintaining an uneasy neutrality in World War I. The Kaiser's government, however, seemed hell-bent on bringing the United States into the war through a series of truly stupid acts designed, ironically, to keep America out of the war.
Although the U.S. was officially neutral, its neutrality was heavily canted toward the Allies, specifically Britain and France. The Germans were convinced that the United States was secretly shipping arms to the Allies (which was in fact the truth, through a complex net of private arms dealers and shippers). These shipments provided the Germans a motive to sink the Lusitania in 1915, which cost 128 American lives. After the sinking of the Lusitania, American neutrality became even more gossamer-like.
By the summer of 1916, one of the largest dumps for munitions destined to reach the Allies was on Black Tom Island, in New York Harbor, a few hundred feet off the Jersey shore, and connected to the mainland by a causeway. Black Tom Island was a literal powder keg, with millions of rounds of ammo, mortar shells, howitzer ordnance, torpedoes, grenades, rockets, and every sort of explosive imaginable stored there. Black Tom Island lay a few hundred yards due west of Bedloe's Island and the Statue of Liberty, and about an equal distance from Ellis Island with its thousands of immigrants waiting to be processed into the country.
|The old torch, which is now on display inside the Liberty Island Museum|
|The new torch|
Black Tom Island no longer exists as such, having been joined to the New Jersey mainland by landfill. But what was the island is now part of Liberty State Park (N.J.), and a monument marks the event.
|September 11, 2001|
As a symbol of America, the Statue of Liberty has been a prime target of directors of dystopian films. She was first destroyed on celluloid in 1933 in the film Deluge. Since then, she has been inundated, knocked down, blown up, and otherwise violated at least 35 times in films like The Day After Tomorrow, Independence Day, Deep Impact, Meteor, and most famously in The Planet of The Apes (1968). Alfred Hitchcock filmed a fearful scene atop the torch in Saboteur.
|The Day After Tomorrow|
|Planet of The Apes|