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New York Hosts Opening Ceremonies For Reopening of the Statue of Liberty

Aired August 3, 2004 - 11:00   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: New York and New Jersey officials met with the homeland security secretary and financial executives earlier this morning to discuss the threat. New York mayor, Michael Bloomberg, says the city's status in the world makes it a tempting target.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (R), NEW YORK: I don't think we need more evidence.

Whenever anybody talks about terrorism, they really talk about hitting the obvious targets, those things that would damage the economy if destroyed, and those places that are icons for America around the world.

That's not the Midwest. That's not other, smaller states. That's not American Samoa. That's New York City, first and foremost and Washington D.C., and then a handful of other cities, perhaps.


KAGAN: Well, speaking of Washington, D.C., police have set up vehicle screening checkpoints around the perimeter of the U.S. capitol. Police have also tightened security around the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund buildings. Those are two other locations mentioned as possible targets.

D.C.'s police chief says the heightened security will likely remain in place through the November election.

In addition to the terror threat, the report of the 9/11 commission is also a major focus in Washington today. House and Senate committees are holding hearings on the report's recommendations.

Our congressional correspond Joe Johns is on Capitol Hill. Joe, good morning.


As you said, there is tight security here in the capitol complex, and that only serves to underscore the potential danger.

As you said, two hearings on Capitol Hill, one in the House, the other in the Senate -- the main focus on that proposal to create a director of national intelligence, also a national counterterrorism center.

Of course, the administration has said it supports these ideas in principle, but differs on some of the details. Meanwhile, one of the 9/11 commissioners testifying in the House hearing today warning the congress of one danger, creating new bureaucracies instead of getting rid of them.


JOHN LEHMAN, 9/11 COMMISSION MEMBER: You will never ensure security by moving around organization charts. You will never determine human behavior by trying to design a better organization chart.

But it's unacceptable to have institutions that have evolved since the second world war, built over time to deal with the cold war and its threats, hemmed in with a variety of restrictions and regulation over time that were appropriate when put in but are no longer appropriate. It's time for an entirely new system.


JOHNS: The House hearing focusing on priorities. Lehman telling the committee today that if Congress does anything, it should reform its committee structure before it does anything else.

Daryn, back to you.

KAGAN: Joe, you were talking about some of the details. The big detail is money and who controls budgets and who's going to decide ultimately how powerful these positions and these new organizations might be.

JOHNS: That's exactly right, and that has been the debate all along. As you know, the administration a little bit concerned about giving full budgetary power to that director of national intelligence.

A number of people who support the recommendations on Capitol Hill say it's absolutely necessary in order for the national director of intelligence to have full power, hiring and firing power, in order to do the kinds of things he needs to do, Daryn.

KAGAN: Joe Johns on Capitol Hill. Joe, thank you.

Now to the Statue of Liberty.

It has been three years since the 9/11 attack, well, almost three years. And with fresh worries about a terrorist strike, tourists finally will be allowed back inside the grand lady's pedestal today.

Live coverage for you this hour.

First, let's go to our national correspondent Kelly Wallace. She is on Liberty Island this morning as ceremonies are getting under way.


A celebratory atmosphere here on Liberty Island as the dignitaries begin to arrive. They include New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Interior Secretary Gale Norton and New York Governor George Pataki.

The crowd is beginning to take its seats. This is, as you said, it's been almost three years and the Statue of Liberty has remained closed since the September 11th attacks. It will be a ceremony here and then an official ribbon cutting and then all the tourists who have gathered, people from as far as Switzerland, and Australia and Detroit, Michigan that we've been talking to today will be able to go inside.

A little bit of controversy, Daryn, that we've been talking about. They won't be able to go in to the entire building though, just the pedestal, the statue itself as well as the observation deck and the top of the crown all (INAUDIBLE).

Daryn, back to you.

KAGAN: All right. Actually a better listen there of the band playing than Kelly Wallace. We'll work on getting the right mics up.

You might see our Aaron Brown in the picture, there. He's the emcee of the ceremonies. And we're going to be going go back live as things get going a little bit more to Liberty Island.

Meanwhile, we are told that much of the information behind the latest terror threat -- you know what, before we get on to other news, this is going, so let's go ahead and listen in.




ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome our master of ceremonies, the anchor and managing editor of CNN "NEWSNIGHT," Aaron Brown.


AARON BROWN, CNN "NEWSNIGHT" ANCHOR: Thank you and welcome.

I can't imagine a higher compliment and a greater honor than to be on this place with you all on this day, and in these times.

Over her life, the statue has symbolized lots of different things. To freed slaves, it was a symbol of their emancipation. For women, it was a symbol of the struggle for women's rights. For 24 million families, including mine, it was a symbol of a great journey ended and a greater journey about to begin. This was the first view of America that my grandparents had a century ago. They were Russian, but they could have been Italian or Irish or Poles. The story is essentially the same. And as common as the story, it is no less special.

They left Russia because Russia offered them no future. They came to America because America did. It's really that simple.

They spoke no English. They had little money or education. But what they knew was enough. They knew that America was a place of opportunity and freedom.

I've often wondered over the years what they thought when they passed by her the first time, what she spoke to them as surely she speaks to everyone who passes her by.

In a country of many important monuments and symbols, none speaks as quietly or as strongly as this one. The statue speaks not just of who we are, a nation of immigrants, but of what we are, a place that regardless of wealth or position or education, regardless of the language we speak or do not speak, we are welcomed here.

All the statue asks of us is that we bring our dreams. Without our dreams she can't be helpful at all. But with our dreams and for millions of people who came here, their great dreams is really all they had, she embraced.

We gather here today to officially re-open her, but the fact is she's never really been closed. For as long as people had the courage to reach the dreams, to seek the freedom, to take advantage of the opportunity, they will find home here, and that torch will guide them through the great harbor and well beyond.

Our ceremonies begin with a presentation of colors by the U.S. Army joint services color guard from Fort Hamilton, New York.


ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, please rise for our national anthem played by the Army's 319th Statue of Liberty band.


BROWN: The greatest classroom -- I assume you're all sitting when I normally work. You should be sitting now. I actually imagine you taking notes, but I'm not sure that's true.

The greatest classroom that I know of to teach the period of American history, from about the mid-1800s to just before the depression, is here and at Ellis island.

And our first speaker today represents both. The acting superintendent of the Statue of Liberty National Monument at Ellis Island, welcome this morning, Cynthia Garrett.


On behalf of the National Park Service, welcome to the Statue of Liberty National Monument. Thank you all for joining us on this very historic occasion.

Despite the heat and humidity, it's always a glorious day in New York. I hope you enjoyed the ferry ride over to Liberty Island. Whether this is your first visit or one of many, I know this one will be an especially memorable one.

Like all national parks, Liberty Island is a place for contemplation and remembrance, for inspiration and renewal. And while all places in the national park system have their own special qualities, this certainly is one of the most magnificent and recognizable in America and in the world.

An enduring symbol of freedom, democracy, peace, opportunity and hope, the Statue of Liberty represents America's past, her present and her future.

The national park service is responsible for caring for this cherished resource, watching over her for the millions who are lucky enough to experience her firsthand, and for people around the world who may never have an opportunity to do that but for whom her image means so much.

At the 1936 celebration of Ms. Liberty's 50th birthday, president Franklin D. Roosevelt offered these word of wisdom, "Liberty and peace are living things. In each generation, if they are to be maintained, they must be guarded and vitalized anew."

Since the Statue of Liberty was closed on September 11th, 2001, we've been ever mindful of this responsibility. The challenge is to protect this icon from physical harm while protecting those who make the pilgrimage here in search of lasting memories.

Our dedicated National Park Service team with the help from other agencies, our partners and numerous skilled contractors have found ways to do both. We are proud of what has been accomplished, excited to invite you to our wonderful new experiences and to reacquaint you with all the other enriching activities at Liberty and Ellis islands.

Let us celebrate the opening of the Statue of Liberty now, more than ever, a symbol of our nation's freedom, vitality and security -- still the most recognizable icon in the world, an inspiration for present and future generations.

Thank you again for joining us.



KAGAN: We've been listening in a little bit to the ceremony taking place on Liberty Island, celebrating the re-opening of the Statue of Liberty. Much of it has been closed for almost three years since the 9/11 attacks.

Not all of it will be open. More details straight ahead on just how much access the public will have. Perhaps we'll get to a little bit more of the ceremony.

Right now, we're going to fit in a quick break.


KAGAN: All right. He's not the toughest by hurricane standards, but he is getting tougher. We're talking about Hurricane Alex and what he might do to the North Carolina shore.

What is the status of Alex? Let's check in with meteorologist Jacqui Jeras.

Jacqui, good morning.

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, Daryn. Good morning, everybody.

Alex has strengthened, has now been upgraded to a category 2 hurricane, packing winds of 100 miles per hour. Now, the good news is that those hurricane force winds only extend out about 25 miles from the center of the storm. But we think that's going to be just nudging right along the Outer Banks. So, you're probably going to get some 100 mile-an-hour gusts, maybe 90 mile-an-hour gusts there.

It's also moving up to the north and east at 15 miles per hour. It's been taking more of a north, northeasterly track. So that's some good news. So hopefully it's going to keep the eye off the shoreline. But it's still pretty iffy. It should be happening likely within the next hour and a half to two hours when it should be making landfall, as it gets a little bit closer towards Cape Hatteras.

It's starting to dump some pretty heavy rainfall now, too. Our Doppler radar storm totals from this morning showing you about three to six inches right along the Outer Banks, especially around the Morehead City area.

And we're also starting to get some reports of some very strong wind gusts. In Beufort, 67 miles per hour, 64 miles per hour around Cape Lookout, Harkers Island, 55, and 52 miles an hour at Ocracoke.

Our meteorologist Chad Myers is on Atlantic Beach. And the winds have been whipping up there. And he's been in the rain all morning long.

Chad, how are conditions now?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It's getting a lot better, Jacqui. In fact, if you can take a look at this over here, I can actually see some blue sky here behind me. Obviously the sky much brighter here. But you were talking about Cape Lookout. I'm not kidding, it is 12 miles from here, right straight that way, 12 miles. And the winds there, you said, were 67. I think maybe we saw one or two gusts of 67 here.

So such a tight and compact storm. Yes, those winds are, yes, they're high. They're 100, but they're only 100 in a very small area.

I would say the biggest gust we've had here in the past even two hours has been 45, maybe 50 miles per hour. In fact, they're even out there surfing. Well, body surfing, whatever.

JERAS: They don't seem too worried, do they, Chad?

MYERS: Not at all. And in fact the lifeguard came down on his four-wheeler, came all the way down, stopped and said, you guys OK? Turned around and went back, didn't even kick him out. So obviously, I guess, it's all right.

JERAS: All right. Thanks very much, Chad. Take it easy out there. Try and have a little fun too, maybe, huh?

Here's the forecast track. We want to show you that before we let you go. We do expect this to continue moving up to the north in to the east. Midday today is when it should be moving right near or over Cape Hatteras. And then it's going to continue to accelerate at forward speeds.

It's going to start to move in to some of those cooler waters and likely be downgraded to a tropical storm late in the day on Wednesday. So once we get through the Outer Banks here, this storm will be history for us.

We've got about a good six hours to go. Things should be getting rough for a while -- Daryn?

KAGAN: All right. Thank you to you, Jacqui, also to Chad there on the North Carolina coast.

Tigger is in trouble. Accused of groping a girl at Disney World. Details on that case just ahead.

And who says you can't learn anything from TV? One little boy discovered a trick that would save his life during a run-in with a shark.

That's coming up.


KAGAN: Jurors in Florida will get to see a Tigger costume today, might even try it on if that's what they want. It's all part of the evidence in a criminal trial against a Disney park worker.

A 13-year-old girl claims the man who was dressed as Tigger groped her breast as she was posing for pictures. Tigger's alter ego has rejected a plea deal that would have given him a year's probation. He could go to prison for 15 years if he's convicted.

An 11-year-old boy is recovering from a shark attack that happened in the shallow waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The shark nearly got away with the boy's arm, but the boy and his father fought back.

Amy Tortolani from our CNN affiliate KHOU has the story.



AMY TORTOLANI, KHOU CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At 11 years old, Aaron Perez is an accomplished fisherman not because of what he's caught but because of what caught him.

AARON PEREZ: I was in the water fishing with my dad and we -- there was a bunch, a school, of fish; and they all moved in and I caught one and I turned around to tell my dad. And when I did that, a shark just started biting my arm.

TORTOLANI: It happened off of Brine Beach in Freeport. And Perez tells us he frantically started hitting the six to seven-foot long shark in the gills. The shark let go of his arm only to clench down on his leg.

His dad and a family friend beat the shark off with their fishing rods.

BLAS PEREZ, AARON'S FATHER: I didn't see the head of the shark, it was on Aaron's side. The shark was way bigger than me. And it was a goldish, yellowish, sandish tint on top and grayish on the bottom. And you've seen the movie jaws. That's what it looked like.

TORTOLANI: Now eight days after the attack, Aaron Perez has two words to describe this shark.

AARON PEREZ: Big and ugly.

TORTOLANI: Doctors tell us they successfully attached his right forearm and recovery is already way ahead of schedule.

UNIDENFIED DOCTOR: We have started already to move his fingers with gently, passive range of motion. And then the next stage will be to let him do more and take it a day at a time.

TORTOLANI: Perez is already thinking about his future and it includes fishing. But the next time, he says, he'll have his eyes on something a bit bigger than your average fish, something about six or seven feet long and you can say, this fisherman is even giving a warning.

AARON PEREZ: I'm going to get him.

(END VIDEOTAPE) KAGAN: Well, you have heard of the war on terror, but what about the war over the war on terror? George Bush and John Kerry both say that they are the ones to protect you, but the question is, how do they plan on doing that?

The morning's most complete political wrap-up is up next.

And what use to take an hour now takes all day. Riding with the guys who really pay the price for the high alert in Manhattan.

That's coming up.



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