“Oh my God… I’m back. I’m home. All the time it was… We finally really did it. [then screaming] YOU MANIACS! YOU BLEW IT UP! AH, D—…” Okay, the rest of this quote is filled with expletives, so I’m gonna skip it. Some of you pop-culturists knew in a nanosecond that these are the lines spoken by the character George Taylor in the final scene of 1968’s “Planet of the Apes” as the camera panned out to reveal the top of the Statue of Liberty jutting out of the sand.
Even at the tender age of 9, my jaw fell as I sat in a darkened movie theater with my dad on a Tuesday, Thursday, or Sunday (as those were his visitation days after my parents divorced). I had just been to the Statue with my Grandpa Izzy on a day-long whirlwind bus tour of NYC must-see’s and, home again, had nestled a 6-inch replica of her on my doll shelf.
Beginning in 1981, and for most of my adult life, I happily lived in her “shadow” in Hudson County, New Jersey. And although New York City has jurisdiction over Liberty Island, on which she sits, the Statue’s geographical home is New Jersey. So, technically, like me, she’s a Jersey Girl. I digress. On July 3, 1986, along the shore of the Paulus Hook section of Jersey City, with an awesome view of her perch, I shared a spot on a rock and a six-pack of beer with a good friend who two decades later would become my second husband. That night, we celebrated her 100th birthday – and her reopening to the public after a massive renovation – under a canopy of fireworks and the blaring of Sousa likely heard clear to the Mississippi. Fifteen years after that, I sadly watched, on my television set, those who celebrated in her shadow the attacks on our freedom, which closed her, for security purposes, for the third time in her life.
Last week, closed yet again after having suffered damages from Hurricane Sandy, Our Lady of the Harbor started once again accepting visitors. I once thought of her, rather traditionally, as a symbol of freedom and of womanhood. Instead, though, as I now review her curriculum vitae, I think of her as a symbol of courage, standing tall inside broken chains at her feet, as if to say, “C’mon. Gimme whatchya got.”
Welcome back, Lady Liberty. Nothing keeps you closed for long: not age, enemies or superstorms. And even though that dramatic image made me tremble in a movie theater long ago, I’m a-thinkin’ not even “D— dirty apes.”