They said it couldn't be done.
Well, ok, nobody actually said that. In fact, everyone said it could be done and I specifically could do it. But I have to admit that I doubted my abilities.
For several months now, ever since Chris came up with the idea of walking up to the crown of the Statute of Liberty, I've been doubting and worrying. See, I don't do well with stairs or inclines. Get me on a flat surface and I can go forever, but my prowess with stairs is seriously lacking. That's why god invented elevators, right?
As stair-day drew closer, I had mixed feelings. I really wanted to go up to the crown because it seems like it would be an amazing experience, but I also didn't want to attempt it and then fail because that would make me feel like a loser. So during my trip to New York this past weekend, I kept coming up with excuses. Oh, if it's pouring rain it won't be worth the climb. My legs and feet are already too sore from walking around all of Manhattan. I don't want to get up that early in the morning.
But when it came down to it, I sucked it up and went for it. I imagined increasingly horrifying scenarios of pulling myself up the stairs on my hands and knees, sweating, and gasping for air, until I had to collapse and quit. Or slipping on the wet stairs (since it was pouring rain) and tumbling down flight after flight. But you know what? After psyching myself for so long the actual experience was...not that bad.
I mean, it wasn't easy. My legs burned, I was panting like a steam engine, but so was everyone else. We all had to stop and pause every 50 steps or so but there were plenty of platforms along the way. Just when I was feeling I could never make it and was about to throw in the towel (the words "guys, I can't do this" had just been said), Selvi and Chris pointed out that we were already almost half way up. And then I knew I could do it. Just like that. It felt like we had just started, but there we were almost there!
So we took our time and made it, easy peazy lemon squeezy. The stairs through the pedestal are like normal staircases, if slightly more narrow. But once you reach the actual statute, the stairs transform into a dizzying spiral that is extremely narrow and has only 6 feet of head clearance.
At this point you have no choice but to ascend slowly (or risk slipping or falling backward) and use your arms as much as your legs to pull yourself up. It sounds scary, but I've never been bothered by heights or small places, so it didn't have a real impact on me. I was fully concentrated on the climbing part of it.
And then, you're there. The platform at the top is only about 8 feet long and getting all 5 of us on there to look at the windows was a bit of a challenge. Although you couldn't see anything out of the windows due to rain and fog, but still, we had made it!
There are 2 guards at the top who can point out sites of interest (when you can see them, that is), and they answered any questions we had. And then we started back down, being extremely careful since the stairs were REALLY wet and slippery. I actually walked down backwards since it seemed to provide a bit more stability.
When we reached the bottom of the pedestal and were back in the museum, Selvi and I went through with our audio tour which was really fascinating. We learned all about the actual construction of the statue, and its significance as a political, advertising, and patriotic symbol through the ages.
The audio tour was also often quite moving, especially when discussing how the Statute of Liberty has stood as a symbol of a better life for those immigrating from Europe and its importance in the aftermath of 9/11. I'm not ashamed to admit that I almost cried once or twice (or thrice).
I wasn't sure if taking the time to ferry out to Liberty Island and tour the statute would be "worth it." But you know what? It so is. If you have the chance, go. When you're there, learn. And if you have been there before, remember.
A remembrance from a journal at Liberty Island left after 9/11:
The Statute of Liberty is a symbol of stability and strength. A chance to remember past struggles and triumphs. A place to reflect on where we have been, where we are, and where we can be in the future. Only by understanding our past can we build a better future.