New York: The Statue of Liberty, iconic
symbol of freedom, New York City and US immigration,
celebrated its 125th birthday today, before closing for a
More than 1,000 people from the United States and
France, the country that gifted the statue in the 19th
century, feted the occasion on Liberty Island in New York
Harbor, complete with a statue-shaped green cake.
"She remains an inspiration for people all around the
world," New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.
"Lady Liberty is an enduring symbol of freedom,
tolerance and openness that represents our country`s highest
ideals," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said.
The event echoed the original October 28, 1886
inauguration of the monument in front of then-president Grover
The Statue of Liberty, created by French sculptor
Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, was presented to the United States
as a sign of friendship from the people of France. It came to
symbolize freedom -- especially for immigrants, 12 million of
whom passed through nearby Ellis Island as they entered the
Friday`s ceremony also saw 125 modern day immigrants
from more than 40 countries become citizens, including Eloise
Zinger, 30, from France.
"I feel French, but now also American," she said.
"It`s a very moving occasion. I came here from Paris as a
student and at once I adored it."
After the American and French national anthems were
played, actress Sigourney Weaver read "The New Colossus," a
poem by Emma Lazarus inscribed under the statue in bronze,
with the famous line about welcoming "your tired, your poor,
your huddled masses yearning to breathe free."
A salute from passing boats, then a fireworks display,
were to follow.
When the party is over, the landmark statue will close
for a year, although Liberty Island itself will remain open to
tourists, who arrive by a short ferry trip.
The USD 27.25 million renovation will improve the
spiral stairway up into the crown and add safety devices and
other modern requirements.