Remembering my first visit to Lady Liberty

Tuesday August 20, 2013

The recent story about the Statue of Liberty celebration of its 137th birthday caught my eye and immediately I thought about my visit to that great statue in 1939. My brother-in-law, Mac McWilliams, was showing me the sights and we had come to the end of the day. Even if it was time to go home, that last ferry to Bedloe’s Island, where the statue stands, was announced, and we crowded on to visit this great lady up close.

The first 10 flights up the base of the statue were by elevator, but going further was by circular stairs. it was a hot, muggy day but the sightseers climbed upward. We reached the crown landing and looked out over the busy harbor -- one of the busiest in the world -- and were greeted with fresh air from the crown observation point.

I wonder how many of us know that this statue was the gift of Eduard LaBoutlaye, a wealthy Frenchman who wanted to cement relations with our young country. A historian suggested that France present America with an impressive, massive statue.

In 1871, he sailed into New York harbor on his first visit to our country and immediately zeroed in on a site for the work. It was Bedloe’s Island. It would be named "Liberty Enlightening the World."

As we looked out from that vantage point at the harbor in the late afternoon sun, we realized what a great meaning this statue had through the years.

Some of the younger climbers accepted the challenge to go up in the extended arm holding the torch (officially off limits) and waved gallantly at us from the arm after their brave climb. But we had achieved our goal of looking out over the harbor and were ready to find our way back down the winding stairs and return to Larchmont fir a cooling dip at the swim club there.

I had accomplished one of my desires of climbing that glorious statue and acknowledging the significance of its purpose accomplished so many years ago.

Harriette Leidich is a Banner columnist.


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