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Released August 04, 2004


HATTIESBURG - Millions of Americans watched with pride Tuesday as one of the world's most recognizable monuments, the Statue of Liberty, reopened in New York.

Some of the proudest were right here at home.

Students and faculty from Petal High School and The University of Southern Mississippi were part of a fund-raising effort to refurbish the famous symbol of freedom. Initiated by the Mississippi High School Honor Society at Petal, the project raised $1,300 of the $20,000 contributed toward Lady Liberty's reopening, three years after it was closed in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York.

Keltoum Rowland, a French instructor at Southern Miss, and two of her students, Drew Cochran and Kimberly Eddy of Petal, were among those who participated in the fund raiser and who watched the reopening Tuesday on the evening news.

For Rowland, a native of France, the gesture had added importance. "When we (France) gave it as a present, we meant for it to be open to the whole world, and to show our friendship and to express the ties between our two countries," Rowland said. "It was with great pride that we watched the Statue of Liberty reopen Tuesday, knowing that in some way we were a part of making that happen."

The project began in December 2003 when Rowland, then a part-time faculty member at Southern Miss and a full-time teacher at Petal, approached Petal's Honor Society about raising money for the statue's reopening. Students and faculty at Petal and at Southern Miss sold $1 pledge cards, with the goal of selling 15 cards for every student. Eddy said that goal was easily exceeded.

"People were very eager to contribute to such a worthy and noble cause," said Eddy, an incoming freshman majoring in biology at Southern Miss this fall. For its efforts, the Honor Society received a special mention in the Ellis Island Foundation's newsletter, Liberty Highlights.

Money raised for the Statue of Liberty will be spent on enhanced security measures - namely new smoke detectors, lighting and emergency exits. A new glass viewing gallery will allow visitors to see inside the statue, and visitors will once again be able to walk out onto the statue's observation deck to view New York City and the harbor.

Cochran said it was important to reopen the Statue of Liberty because it has become "the icon for what America's all about."

"It's in all the patriotic songs and in movies. It just says 'America,'" said Cochran, an incoming freshman at Southern Miss majoring in nursing.


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August 31, 2004 1:49 PM