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New Americans sworn in on Lady Liberty's 125th birthday

To mark the 125th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty, 125 immigrants from 46 countries were sworn in as United States citizens during a ceremony Friday.
/ Source: news services

To mark the 125th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty, 125 immigrants from 46 countries were sworn in as United States citizens during a ceremony Friday.

The naturalization ceremony on Liberty Island kicked off a daylong celebration of the dedication of the statue in 1886, which has welcomed millions of new immigrants to America on their way to Ellis Island.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar told the new Americans on Friday that diversity strengthens the nation.

For her birthday this year, Lady Liberty is getting a high-tech uplift. Five webcams attached to the torch held high in New York harbor will offer views not seen by the public in nearly a century.

The webcams went live during a ceremony on Liberty Island marking the 125th anniversary of the dedication of the copper-clad monument, which was a gift from France to the people of America.

From computers afar, viewers will be able to watch live video streams of traffic, boats and airplanes in high-resolution panoramic images showing the Manhattan skyline, the city's borough of Brooklyn and neighboring New Jersey.

"For people who don't come to the Statue of Liberty, it will be a whole new opportunity for them to see the statue, what's around it and how it fits into the whole cityscape," Stephen Briganti, president of the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, said in an interview on Tuesday.

Officials closed the torch to the public in 1916 during World War One, following an explosion at a nearby munitions depot, blamed on German saboteurs, that damaged the statue.

Since then, the sweeping views have been seen only by a handful of people involved in the statue's maintenance.

"It's a heck of a climb," said Briganti, who last made the difficult ascent in the statue's right arm in the 1980s.

The cameras are housed inside steel containers slightly smaller than shoe boxes, he said.

One points directly straight down, offering an unusual view of the statue's crown and anyone milling around the statue's base some 300 feet below.

"I call that the 'Hi Mom!' view," Briganti said, suggesting that visitors to the statue might arrange to wave to friends and family at home.

Two other webcams are being set up in Brooklyn, pointing at the statue.

EarthCam, a New Jersey-based webcam technology company, donated the cameras.

Internet users will be able to access the streams from EarthCam's website and the National Park Service's Statue of Liberty website.

Officials are planning a day of events on Friday on Liberty Island to mark the anniversary, including a reading of Emma Lazurus' poem "The New Colossus" by actress Sigourney Weaver and renditions of both the French and U.S. national anthems.

After the celebration, access to the statue's interior, including its crown, will be closed for about a year while the statue is renovated, although Liberty Island will remain open to visitors.

Information from the Associated Press and Reuters was included in this report.