The day after we visited the site of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack, we returned to New York City and visited two sites that remind us that millions around the world love the United States and have wanted to come here. We took the ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.
As we waited for the ferry, this man played music for us.
We could see the Statue of Liberty in the distance.
As we crossed the water, we saw numerous water taxis, as well as the Staten Island Ferry.
There were lots of other boats in the Hudson River, as well. This is one of the sail boats.
Another sail boat was seen against a fire boat's spray.
And we could look back at the beautiful New York skyline and Battery Park.
We had visited Lady Liberty years ago. Since we were too late to get tickets to go into the Crown, we didn't get off at the statue. Instead, we continued to Ellis Island, where immigrants were processed from 1892 to 1954. In those years the majority of the 12 million people moving to the US from around world came through Ellis Island. Two of John's grandparents were among those millions.
This is a tower on the main building.
After the immigrants came into the building, they piled their luggage in this room, then went up the steps and were examined by physicians to determine if they were healthy. Those who were ill were taken to a hospital on the island. Here most recovered with bed rest and good food. Apparently the hospital was really state of the art for that time. No more than 2 percent of the immigrants were sent back because of ill health or other reasons.
There were many, many people visiting the island. And it wasn't even really summer yet.
I tried to go on a ranger tour to learn more.
There was so much noise and confusion I could only hear about half of what the ranger was saying, so I gave up. We did read and study the displays inside. The high-ceilinged rooms echoed from all the voices. It was hard to concentrate. But some days up to 5,000 immigrants passed through these rooms. They must have been even more confused, and frightened.
We had to wait in line to board the ferry back to Battery Park on Manhattan. This is the crowd ahead of us. It included two groups of school children, one group probably fifth graders, the other middle school students.
One of my grandfathers came to the US in 1873 and one grandmother came about 1876. Both of these people would have been processed through Castle Garden, one of four old forts built to protect New York City from attack by the British during the War of 1812. The State of New York turned Castle Garden into an immigrant station, which processed 8 million newcomers from 1855 to 1890. According to the National Park Service, one in six Americans today is descended from a person entering here. I am one of those people. Now called Castle Clinton, today it serves as the ticket center for the ferry trip to Liberty and Ellis Islands.
I couldn't get over the contrast between the World Trade Center attacks, spearheaded by people who hate America, and the symbolism of Lady Liberty and Ellis Island. The Twin Towers were easily visible from the two islands in the Hudson. At least 17 million people who sought a new life in this country came right through here, using their own resources and enduring great hardship in the ocean crossing for that chance at something better. The Statue of Liberty was envisioned and paid for by French citizens who wanted to honor the ideals of freedom and liberty they saw in our country. The words of a poem written in 1883 by Emma Lazarus are inscribed at the base of the statue, "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free." May our country always stand for freedom and may Lady Liberty's torch burn as a symbol of that freedom.