New citizens celebrate Liberty
The Statue of Liberty celebrated her 125th birthday by serving as an inspiring backdrop for immigrants declaring the oath of American citizenship.
The new Americans came from 46 countries in all, with one person swearing the oath for each of the years Lady Liberty has stood as a beacon of freedom in New York harbor.
"Now I can say I'm American!" gushed an ecstatic Anatoliy Gryshchenko (21), who came to the US from the Ukraine in 2005. "I'm actually a part of this country like everyone else."
Lights, camera, fireworks: The 125 years of the Statue of Liberty was
marked with a 12-minute fireworks display choreographed to patriotic
The new citizens came from countries like Russia, Cuba, China and the Dominican Republic.
Beaming with pride, many said they were thrilled to take the oath underneath the iconic statue that has welcomed millions of immigrants to the land of the free and the home of the brave -- rather than the usual courtroom sessions.
"It is the symbol of freedom in the new world," said Silvia Hodges, who came to the US from Germany in 1999. "When I see it nowadays, I feel like I'm home. I'm a New Yorker!"
Lady Liberty was given to America as a gift from France, and her power of inspiration to immigrants hoping for a better life in the US goes beyond words.
"Most of my friends that I talk to, their ancestors came from Ukraine, Russia, Germany, and they saw that first symbol of the desire for the American dream from the boat," Gryshchenko said of Lady Liberty.
"Many years after, it means the same thing."
The new Americans were cheered by loved ones, along with US Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Alejandro Mayorkas, the director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services.
The Cuban-born Mayorkas became an American citizen in 1973.
"My parents were able to bring their children and offer all the opportunities America has to offer," he said, admiring as he admired Lady Liberty.
The daylong celebration was capped with a fireworks display.
"I'm really blessed to be here on this day with the Statue of Liberty," Hodges said, smiling.
The height of the Statue of Liberty from her toe to the tip of her head
The number of rays on Lady Liberty's crown. Each ray represents each of the seven continents
The total weight of the Statue of Liberty