A rite of American passage has been officially denied us. The National Park Service will not reopen the crown of the Statue of Liberty, closed since 9/11, to tourists. This is most unfortunate.

Frankly, the crown itself was not much of an attraction. The space was cramped. The windows were small and invariably smeared and dirty. The view was not appreciably better than the much more comfortable vantage points on the base below. And the viewer was constantly being chivvied along by other tourists impatient for their turn at the window. In summer, the experience was enhanced by the aroma of overcrowded and overheated humanity.

The triumph was in getting there, which entailed standing in a long, slow-moving line and climbing ever steeper and narrow flights of stairs that finally became a spiral staircase inside the statue itself. Outside, the statue is graceful and flowing. Inside, it is a harsh industrial maze of girders and braces. Since the guardrails on the spiral staircase are only about knee-high on an adult, there is an unobstructed and acrophobia-inducing view down, way, way down, to the bottom of the statue.

But for an American tourist visiting an American icon, the climb had to be made. Being a rite of passage, once the pilgrimage to the crown of Lady Liberty had been made, it never had to be repeated, and it’s a safe bet that few did. The closure has sapped some of the steel from our national soul.

(Contact Dale McFeatters at McFeattersD(at)