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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Liberty Awaited Them

As I look through my list of ancestors who immigrated from Ireland and Germany, I can pick out a few who likely saw the Statue of Liberty while sailing into New York Harbor.  While many of my ancestors were already in the United States by 1886, I often wonder if my great grandparents', Patrick Hickey and Johanna Coughlin, first glimpse of the statue moved them.  They would definitely have seen her upon their arrival in 1904 and 1905 to New York City.

Some people including New Yorkers say that the statue is just a tourist trap.  I have heard this on more than one occasion from a New York City or Long Island resident.  For many of these people, the statue is something that they take for granted.  There are many a resident of New York who have never been to Liberty Island.  In their defense, when something is in your backyard, it is sometime considered the usual story of the day.

As a Californian with several New York City relatives in my past and a few trips there, I have ventured out to Liberty Island.  As part of the collection of tourists, I did get to see Lady Liberty on at least three occasions.  In 1980, I made it up to the pedestal and, in 1990, I made it to the top, the crown.  My 1984 trip to New York found me looking at her from a far with scaffolding surrounding her during the renovation.  I also went there in 1986 and can't remember going anywhere near lower Manhattan.  I might need to go back and check my photo albums.

So why do I bring all of this up now.  I was recently watching a show about wonders of the United States.  It included Yosemite, Yellowstone, and the Grand Canyon.  In relating this to my ancestors, I thought, "Those national parks are places that the majority of my ancestors never saw.  What wonders did they see?"  That's when the Statue of Liberty popped into my head.  It is a common "wonder" that many immigrants saw as they entered New York Harbor upon their arrival in the United States. 

My own experience of awe for the Statue of Liberty was first felt as we rode the ferry out the island and saw her looming in the distance.  That is an amazing sight.  While I have been up in the statue and to the crown, the best view of her is standing at ground level looking up.  I got some amazing photos back in 1990.  I hope that I still have the negatives somewhere.   Here is one of the photos:

Copyright 1990, zelsersk


Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

 "The New Colossus", by Emma Lazarus


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