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Liberty and Ellis Islands Reopen

December 20, 2001

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NEW YORK (AP) _ The island home of the Statue of Liberty welcomed visitors Thursday for the first time since terrorists leveled the nearby World Trade Center. Lady Liberty herself remained closed for security reasons.

``I needed to come down here,″ said Ron Parker, a firefighter who was on the first ferry to Liberty Island since Sept. 11. He said he had been working at ground zero ever since the attack.

``I needed to take a break,″ he said. ``I needed to say a prayer for friends.″

Nearby Ellis Island, where thousands of immigrants entered the United States, also reopened Thursday for the first time since the attacks.

About 200 people took the first boat from Battery Park in lower Manhattan to Liberty Island, and were greeted by National Park Service Director Fran Mainella and Interior Secretary Gale Norton. Small American flags were handed out to tourists, who strolled around and snapped pictures of the city’s wounded skyline.

New, tight security measures were in place, with visitors passing through metal detectors before boarding a boat to the tiny islands. Packages and backpacks were banned, and guards from a private security company screened passengers.

``Even before Sept. 11, we probably should have been doing that. But we’ve added that now, so every one can feel comfortable that everything is secure when they get over here,″ Mainella said. ``Once we do open the statue, we probably will have additional screening before you go up that.″

The statue is to remain closed until some time next year.

Several other National Park Service sites in the city were closed in the wake of the attack, either because they were close to the trade center or were used for staging. All have reopened.

``No terrorist can destroy the dream of freedom,″ Norton said.

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