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Statue of Liberty reopens on US Independence Day

July 4, 2013

NEW YORK (AP) — The Statue of Liberty finally reopened on America’s Independence Day months after Superstorm Sandy swamped its little island as people across the U.S. celebrated freedom and President Barack Obama urged citizens to live up to the words of the Declaration of Independence.

The statue’s reopening Thursday was a sign of recovery as the nation celebrated its independence in a variety of ways — from a solemn fireworks tribute to fallen firefighters to traditional parades and concerts to competitive hot dog eating.

Tighter security was common. Boston prepared to host its first large gathering since the marathon bombing in April that killed three and injured hundreds.

In New York, a large crowd gathered for the holiday and ribbon-cutting ceremony at Liberty Island with federal officials and Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Lines stretched blocks long for the boat to the island, which left from the busy southern tip of Manhattan.

“It is one of the most enduring icons of America, and we pulled it off — it’s open today,” National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis said at a ribbon-cutting ceremony. “Welcome.”

The statue was spared in the October storm, but Lady Liberty’s island took a serious beating. Railings broke, docks and paving stones were torn up and buildings were flooded. The storm destroyed electrical systems, sewage pumps and boilers. Hundreds of National Park Service workers from as far away as California and Alaska spent weeks cleaning mud and debris.

Elsewhere in the city, competitive eating champions Joey Chestnut and Sonya Thomas defended their respective men’s and women’s titles at the 98th annual Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest.

In his weekly radio address, Obama urged Americans to live up to the words of the Declaration of Independence by securing liberty and opportunity for their children as well as for future generations.

The first family was to host U.S. servicemen and women at the White House for a cookout later Thursday.

In the Arizona town that’s the home of 19 elite firefighters who were killed over the weekend in a wildfire, the holiday fireworks were set to continue, despite the hot conditions. And the fire that continued to burn. The community’s mantra for days has been, “celebration, not grief.”

Two were killed in holiday parades in Oklahoma and Maine. In Oklahoma, a boy died after being run over by a float near the end of a parade. In Maine, the driver of a tractor in the parade was killed after the vehicle was struck by an old fire truck.

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Associated Press writer Christopher Weber in Hermosa Beach, California, contributed to this report.

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