Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Through America's Gate

My family and I have been wanting to visit Ellis Island and see Lady Liberty since we moved here to New Jersey three years ago. We spend a lot of time in Manhattan, and always see the Statue of Liberty from a distance, but we never made the time to actually get on the island and see the monument.

On this Memorial day...we did, and I'm so glad.
 On the ferry and on our way to Ellis Island and to see Lady Liberty...
 no one got motion sickness and everyone was happy...especially Chelsea.
 Noah was having so much fun running around Lady Liberty in 95 degree weather!
It looks like Noah is telling me, "WHAT'S UP MOM?"
Visiting the immigration station at Ellis Island was a bit emotional for me. I didn't realize the things they went through as they tried to cross America's gate. Reading about certain experiences, and why they were detained for whatever reason was shocking. It was an educational moment for my daughters' and interesting to read about all the things they endured.

We walked through the same halls as the immigrants went through in which they were being observed and examined, and in each room there were depictions and quotes of what was happening to them in that room, and what was going to be the next step for them...a new life as an American, detained, or sent back to their homelands.

There were two quotes told by immigrants that sounded similar to those of the holocaust, except these men in uniform...were a lot nicer:

"We were put on a barge, jammed in so tight that I couldn't turn 'round, there were so many of us, you see, and the stench was terrible. And when we got to Ellis Island, they put the gangplank down, and there was a man at the foot, and he was shouting, at the top of his voice, "Put your luggage here, drop your luggage here. Men this way. Women and children this way." Dad looked at us and said, "Well, we'll meet you back here at this mound of luggage and hope we find it again and see you later."
~Eleanor Kenderdine Lenhar, and English immigrant 1921, interviewed in 1985.

 "They put us into lines, all kinds of lines. If you had visibly something wrong with you, like if they saw your eyes red, or something, they'd put one color chalk on you. If it was something else, if you were with a cane or something, it's another chalk and you go into a certain other line. If nothing visible there, the put you in lines, regular lines...And the doctors and everybody that was supposed to interrogate us were dressed in uniforms....[that]had a terrible effect on me...we were scared of uniforms. It took us back to the Russian uniforms that we were running away from."
~Katherine Beychok, a Russian Jewish immigrant in 1910 interviewed in 1995.

I can't imagine what I would do if I was separated from my family. I LOVE MY FAMILY!! It really made me appreciate what the immigrants went through, and how much I appreciate the country we live in.

On our way home we stopped in Hoboken to eat at Five Guys. There are so many quaint little bistros on Washington St., but the girls were craving burgers. We talked about Ellis Island and how they felt about reading all about the immigrants experiences.
On the streets of Hoboken.
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land,
Here at our sea-washed, sunset-gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. 
~from The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus, 1883

As we left Lady Liberty we are reminded of our freedom, and how Lady Liberty herself...was once an immigrant.

Hope your Memorial Day was a memorable one...I know ours was.

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