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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish. The Statue of Liberty is once again welcoming visitors to New York Harbor. Lady Liberty reopened for tours today for the first time since Hurricane Sandy, more than eight months ago. While the statue itself was not harmed, the storm did cause extensive damage to the island below it.
The National Park Service has been working towards today's reopening ever since. Here's NPR's Joel Rose.
JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: They came from all over the country and the world to see Lady Liberty up close for the first time since Sandy.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: It's kind of a special thing to be here. It's kind of, for me, a symbolic idea that liberty endures, whether it's after a storm or a revolution.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: 'Cause it's one of the emblematic piece of New York, so there's no sense to come to New York and not go to the statue anyway.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: This is the most beautiful lady in the United States, offered freedom to so very many people. So I always wanted to see her and here I am. I'm a lucky girl.
ROSE: Philip Seltzer(ph) of Bloomfield, Michigan, Lunir Barada(ph) of Morocco and Joyce Bresnahan(ph) of Naples, Florida, waited in line to board the ferry from Manhattan. The Statute of Liberty's crown and torch were relit just weeks after the storm but the other repairs to Liberty Island and nearby Ellis Island will take a lot longer and cost close to $60 million.
During Sandy, three-quarters of Liberty Island was underwater. The storm ripped up paving stones, damaged the docks and ruined electrical equipment. Even now, the National Park Service offices are barely connected to the outside world.
DAVE LUCHSINGER: We really don't have telephone service just yet. We're basically operating out of cell phones. But we do have one landline so that visitors can actually call in and find out information from us.
ROSE: Dave Luchsinger is the superintendent of Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island.
LUCHSINGER: It's been a very, very complicated situation here. The utilities are almost all in the basements of these buildings and they were all destroyed. Literally, our entire infrastructure went down after Sandy, so it's been a long, hard process trying to get us back up and running.
ROSE: But Luchsinger says the Statue of Liberty came through the storm with no real damage. When Sandy hit last October, Lady Liberty had just reopened after a year of renovations. Luckily, Luchsinger says none of that work was compromised.
LUCHSINGER: She got a little bit polished. You'll see that the right side of her face and her lower stomach are a little bit greener than the other areas and that was probably from the wind blast. But other than that, she looks terrific.
SHIRLEY ARNONE: She hasn't aged a day. She got through the storm.
ROSE: Shirley and Vincent Arnone(ph) came from New Jersey just to sit by the water in lower Manhattan and take in the sights.
VINCENT ARNONE: We woke up this morning. I says, you know something? The best place to be today is down where we are right now, the Battery Park, just relaxing, seeing, you know, the Statue of Liberty.
ROSE: Others plan their visits further in advance. Michael Lindsey(ph) brought his family from Southern California to tour the statue on the day it reopened.
MICHAEL LINDSEY: We can celebrate with Lady Liberty and reflect on what we really have in this country that a lot of people around the world - look at what's going on in Egypt right now, wanting to get a democracy. So it's a wonderful time to be here.
ROSE: Now that the Statue of Liberty is open, park service officials will turn their attention to Ellis Island, home to an immigration museum that's been closed since the storm. Park service officials hope to have it open by the end of the year. Joel Rose, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.