I am grateful that today is Sunday and I keep thinking that the amount of traffic on the expressway must be half ! It was an eye opener for all of us to drive through the Bronx, Queens and across into Jersey City. We found our way through to the Statue of Liberty Park and took a ferry out to Ellis island and the Liberty island. Anywhere from the islands or the boardwalk at the park you could look across to Manhatten and see the complete skyline just like what you see in pictures or movies. Let me tell you some of our conversations around this visit. First of all , we thought about what it would have felt like to come across the Atlantic as an early immigrant in the conditions on those ships and to see that Statue welcome you in the harbor ! What a message and a promise about what living life in America would be. Then you are sent to Ellis island which quite frankly is Erie and reminds me of a concentration camp
. It must have been great to put your feet on solid ground however how cruel to be kept within arms reach of the city like a prisoner. I know that my O'Hara ancestors spent time here. I do not know the conditions of the actual city back then but once you passed the quarantine you would have gone to your "area" depending on where you had just immigrated from. You can sort of see how the various cultures would form prejudices against each other and had competitions between them. This would have been the beginning of gangs. The poverty and filth and close quarters of how people live now and the smell in the streets especially after a rain is vile. This is definitely a city whose beauty and culture is enjoyed by tourists and those with money. We all felt that these ghettos were inhumane. We got lost in a section of Newark and we were all truly afraid. Huge warehouses with dogs barking inside and every window broken while children ran around bare foot in the streets, young black guys all crowded in stairwells and elderly men just sitting on the steps. It is hot and humid and nobody can move quickly. We found a Walmart to park for the night in a better area and met a young black man who had come from Africa a year ago. When you hear these people’s story your heart breaks for them. He has 2 jobs which he is grateful for however the hopes of making the American dream are getting slim and he feels that no matter how long he lives here for he will be a stranger. He misses the sense of community and family he had back home .He has a strong faith though and prays that his prayers will be answered as long as he keeps working hard
. All of these experiences helped us to have an even greater appreciation for where we live and the freedoms we enjoy. Another thought that was erie to me was to envision being on that boardwalk on Liberty park and looking across to Manhattan to see the planes hit the twin towers. I had goosebumps and could only look over there in disbelief to try and envision the explosion and fire and chaos. If we were all traumatized just seeing it on tv imagine what it was like to really be there and here we were standing right there. It has changed us for having been there and I will always be grateful for that however I cannot say I want to go back. Broadway shows and wonderful restaurants do not really make up for what it stands for today. Iknow that New Yorkers are very protective of the culture and roots that Newyork stands for them and I can appreciate the history of the city, but how does the city honor that now ? I guess I would have to hang out with a New Yorker for a while and see it through their eyes !