Growing up in Burrwood

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Ellis Island

Of all the places we visited Ellis Island was the most humbling to me. As we sailed up to the Island I tried to imagine what it might have been like for those who came from so far away many years ago to start a new life.

The Island had many names. The Indians called it Seagull Island, Dutch Settlers called it Oyster island and when pirates where hanged from the trees there it was called Gibbet Island. It wasn't until around the time of the American Revolution in 1776 that a merchant Samuel Ellis from New York owned it and built a restaurant on it for fishermen. In 1808 an heir to Samuel sold it to the city of New York who kept the name Ellis Island. Later that same year it was sold to the Federal Government. Later the Island was expanded and other islands built from the landfill taken from building the subway system.

The brick structure was opened in Dec. of 1900 at a cost of 1.5 million dollars and was designed to handle 5000 immigrants a day. As years went by more buildings were added to the Island. Later 

When the U.S. entered WW1 the island was used to detain German soldiers and a couple of years later it was taken over by the Army and Navy to care for sick and wounded soldiers. 

When you first walk in you are taken aback by the size of great room where the immigrants were first processed as they came off the boats. The room measures 100 ft. by 200 ft. with 56 ft. vaulted ceilings. The tall ceiling and huge windows are beautiful. Right across the room from the doors is a line of hundreds of pieces of luggage that was left there by the immigrants. When you look at them you visualize what must have been in them at one time. Ones entire life's possessions in each and every one of them. 

The many rooms there are of different sizes and uses. There is the medical examination room, the mental examination room, the registration room, a court room, a dinning room (which we ate lunch in on the very same tables) a hospital, a laundry room and of course the dormitories. 

We watched a movie while we were there. Before the movie starts a tour guide tells you about the island and what the immigrants had to go through to be able to stay here. I found out that if you had any medical issues no matter how small you could be sent back to your home country.  Many who came had an eye disease. A doctor would examine their eyes and if they were infected they would be turned away and sent back.  They would watch to see if you had any physical disabilities as well and if you did you too were sent back.  When I heard that the first thing I thought of is, I would have been one of those turned away. I was born with a dislocated hip and have always limped. Since they only wanted or allowed the healthiest and the strongest to stay I would have had to leave.  Parents of children who had any problems had to decide who would stay here and who would go back with their children if they were turned away. Can you imagine what that must have been like? If you were allowed to stay and if you had family here to claim you your native currency was exchanged for American money and you were free to go.

Throughout the building they have rooms of pictures placed inside cardboard boxes which are lighted of some of those who came here. They have rooms of clothes from every corner of the world each with it's own style and fashion at that time. You can visit the dormitories where the bunks are 3 high and the bathrooms of just the basic necessities but were probably a blessing for them. They have letters and letters written by many. What I found interesting and funny at the same time that even back then those in charge, who had to be immigrants at one time as well, were complaining about all the immigrants coming and should put a stop to it or slow it down at least (sound familiar?). Some of the letters that were displayed were heartbreaking while some where joyous and happy. There were drawings on the walls where people drew pictures of birds or a outline of their hands with their names in it.

They have books and books of the names of those who came and you can look through them to find your family name. We found ours. We found both sides except for my grandmothers as she was a Cherokee Indian. In fact, there is a website where you can search the registry for your family. Just go here

I was very humbled after visiting Ellis Island. To think what our ancestor's went through to make a better life for themselves and for their families for whatever reason they had makes you feel a little ashamed for complaining when the power goes out or something breaks down and yet, grateful at the same time. As many problems as our country has it is still the best country in the world and we are lucky to live here. I wouldn't want to live anywhere else.

I know I'm probably forgetting something and if I think of it I'll throw it in another blog. For now though I'll leave you with a video of a scale model of the Island. Here's  a link to a website that tells you more about Ellis Island then I every could. I was so impressed and humbled from this expierence. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Statue of Liberty

As with most every place you visit as a tourist in N.Y. you have to go through security. However, this is the only place we went to that I saw an armed soldier standing guard. Miss Liberty was a gift of friendship from the people of France Oct. 28th 1886 as universal symbol of freedom and democracy. She was dedicated on October 28, 1886 and designated as a National Monument in 1924. A symbolic feature that people cannot see is the broken chain wrapped around the Statue's feet. At the bottom of her robe, there is broken chains that symbolize her free forward movement, symbolizing to the world with her torch the freedom from oppression and servitude.

Ticket prices aren’t too bad, only around $17.00 for adults. You can only get to the Island by the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island Ferry. Personnel and privet boats are not allowed to dock on the islands.
The line was long and it was another hot day the day we went. Thankfully there were vendors there selling water and ice cream. Once we boarded the Ferry we headed for the upper deck so we could have a clear vision of everything around us. I can’t tell you what an amazing sight it is as you get closer and closer to the Statue. Not to mention the view of the City as well as the Brooklyn Bridge.
Once you dock on the Island you are behind the Statue. As you walk toward her through the court yard there is a table set up with pamphlets and information. There are headphones you can use for an audio tour as well.
The courtyard is beautiful! Along the sides of the courtyard are vendors and on the other side there are white cast iron tables sitting between rows of trees. As you walk around she comes into view and it just stops your heart to be so close to her. You can have your picture taken by photographers and then view them in the gift shop when you’re ready to leave.
Speaking of the gift shop. I have to admit that I was very disappointed. Of course they have the normal things like shirts, key chains, cups etc. BUT…they were all made in CHINA! I didn’t see one thing there that was made here and I think it is outrageous that souvenirs sold at our national parks and monuments are made in foreign countries. When I think of women & children working in sweatshops making these things for gift shops at, of all places, our nations proudest places it blows my mind. Because of that, the only thing I bought there was the pictures we had taken in front of the Statue. I will treasure that forever! To be there with my boys means more then I could ever say and means more then a mere trinket.
I can’t even begin to tell you the feeling that comes over you while you’re there. To look up at her and realize the reason she’s there is nothing short of humbling. Knowing what happened in the past and the reason the French made this for us is a lesson for us all.
We walked around the entire Island before heading back to the Ferry which would then take us over to Ellis Island. If you ever get the chance to go there don’t turn it down. You won’t regret it.
In my next blog I will tell you about Ellis Island.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The 9/11 Memorial

You have to have a ticket and a reservation to get in to the Memorial site, as of right now they are free. They only allow so many at a time and you can pick a day and time you hope to be there. If there are too many for that day and time they will let you know. Security is tight there as well, you and your bags have to go through a screening there too. When you go in they give you a roll of paper and a crayon so you can etch a name on it if you want as well as information.

Kathy and I went to the Memorial and Bill and William went to the Natural History Museum that day.

As with everywhere you go in N.Y. there are lines of people waiting to enter and the Memorial was no different. I’m sad to say that Kathy lost her Dad in the towers the day of the attack. Families who lost someone that day doesn’t have to wait in line, they have a separate entrance for them and I think that’s how it should be. Her Dad’s name is engraved on one of the pools.
It is hard for families. Kathy said that even though she understands why people want to visit there, for her it’s grave site. At the same time, it’s a tourist attraction and a place to mourn.

There is a temporary museum there right now while the permanent one is being built. You can see it in my picture that is titled…People at the Memorial in the back of the photo. It’s slanted building and it will be amazing when it’s finished.

All through the museum there are video’s. Video’s of the day of the attack, video’s of the aftermath and clean up. Video’s of peoples reaction and of the first responders who never gave up. There are artifacts of the buildings and of the planes, of personal items found in the wreckage. There is a wall of just photos of those gone from us and a wall of those who are still missing. There is a flag called the honor flag that has the name of every person who perished that day. It is very humbling to say the least.

The names around the fountains are arranged not alphabetically but by the group of people who were close together on the day the planes hit. Police officers are listed together, as are passengers on each of the planes that crashed -- and the crew and passengers of each plane are listed on the pool corresponding to the tower their plane hit.

The Reflecting Pools are amazing and beautiful. They are the centerpiece of the memorial and are two giant, square pits and they sit in the footprints of the two towers. The waterfalls cascading down the four walls of each fountain are the largest such fountains in North America. To me the the continuous fountains are reminders that we will never forget.

There is a tree there that was originally planted in 1970 that now stands alone in the plaza, it's called the Survivor Tree. It is a pear tree and is the last living thing pulled from the ruins. The tree was found in the smoldering rubble and had sustained extensive damage. When it was found it had lifeless limbs, snapped roots and the trunk was scorched and blackened. At that time it was 8 feet tall. It was taken to a nursery and nursed back to  health and replanted and now measures 30 in height. Since trees is my most favorite thing in the world other then my family I had to get a picture of it and of course I had to touch it. To me the tree  symbolizes that as Americans you can  knock us down but you can't knock us out. We will  'Always' get back up and do what needs to be done to make things right.

Next time I'll tell you about the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. For now I'll leave you with a video of one of the Reflection Pools.