Posts Tagged ‘New York City trip’

Hope for the Desperate

In some ways our stop at Ellis Island on our New York trip was the most meaningful for me. In 1748, my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather Johann Matheus Hutwohl took his wife and two little girls in search of freedom from religious persecution in Germany, booked voyage on the ship “Two Brothers” and sailed for the “New World”.  Their story can be read on my blog post “A Family Story: Death on the High Seas”.  The Hutwohls (later changed to Heatwoles), along with millions of other desperate immigrants who fled Europe, were driven by hope for a new life as they left behind relatives, friends, a church community, their homeland and all they owned. There was promise not only of religious freedom but freedom from war, poverty and the bonds of an oppressive tyranny government.  The New World beckoned with open arms.

The dock were the cargo ships carrying the immigrants would dock.  The immigrants were ill prepared for the densely packed conditions and lack of food and personal hygiene.

Ellis Island Processing Center

I had gotten myself a little confused when I was at Ellis Island and thought that was the port of entry for Matheus. I kept trying to visualize him in that great hall and seeing the Statue of Liberty as the ship entered the Hudson River. I could almost feel his grief as he walked down the plank alone, a young widow in a strange land with an unknown tongue. He had buried his dear wife and two precious daughters at sea. When I got home and reread his story, I realized he landed on Mud Island at Philadelphia and entered America through that port of entry. But I am sure the process and feelings were the same regardless of which port they entered.

The Registry Room where shiploads of immigrants would come and wait for their name to called so they could be processed. The room has been restored to it’s original beauty. Most immigrants had never seen such magnificent buildings.

I realized as we toured the museum and read the history that immigration was as difficult emotionally, physically, and politically then as it is now. Most days Ellis Island processed 4-5,000 immigrants. There was concern about health, mental stability, crime and whether the immigrants could contribute to the new society to which they had come. The processing facilities, health resources and physical needs were stretched to the limit. They had to have money, the promise of a job, and people waiting for them to help them adjust and find their way. Each immigrant had to go through several screening processes:  legal hearing, and a mental and medical exam.  There was great concern about the many contagious diseases that the immigrants were bringing to the new land. Those who were sick were marked with white chalk on their clothes and taken to the “dorm” on the island for a designated period of time.  At the end of that time if they were not well, they were returned to their native land. Many lived in desperate poverty until they found jobs and could get on their feet financially. There were periods of years when all ports of entry were closed to immigration and for years no Chinese were allowed to enter.

The health dorm.

Cots for the immigrants to sleep on.

View of the New York skyline from Ellis Island on a misty, foggy morning.

Almost all Americans can trace their roots to immigration. Depending on different world crisis and situations, different ethnic groups came at different times. I found myself very grateful that Matheus took the risk and came to the New World.  He paid a heavy price. I realize that immigrates, whether today or in 1748, all have the same desperate hope for a new start. There is something that drives them from their native land, usually with almost no earthly goods, in search of a new home. There is a huge risk and they are willing to sacrifice all to make the journey. America has and still beckons as the land of promise, the land of opportunity, the land of freedom and hope. The big difference today is that illegal caravans are demanding and forcing their way in even when the legal option is there. Our forefathers came legally; their paperwork was in order.

I was especially interested in these information plaques since my ethnic roots are German and my spiritual heritage is Mennonite.

We cruised in on a comfy ferry with a food concession stand and restrooms for the 20-30 minute ride from the mainland. This was much different to the conditions the immigrants endured during the weeks and months as they crossed the Atlantic ocean.

Other New York trip blog posts:

We Remember……when America’s heart was broken

There are tragic events that are seared forever in our memory: we remember where we were at, what we were doing and other details that surround the event. September 11, 2001 was one of those events. I was working in our retail feed store when a customer told us the news. The rest of the day was consumed with sitting in front of the TV, eyes glued to the screen, trying to absorb the horrific details of untold horror unfolding live in our nation.

Picture of a picture of the New York skyline before 9/11.

I remember feeling fear: fear of the unknown, fear of the unimaginable destruction and death, fear of what may happen next. I remember the eerie calm and quietness that settled over the land for several days as all planes nationwide were quickly grounded. I went outside and looked up. There was not a single white exhaust airplane streak or noise in the sky for several days.   I remember the pit in my stomach as we watched humans fall to their death from the burning inferno raging in the two World Trade Center towers.  I remember the dust-covered alien-looking ghost city as the collapsed towers crumbled into smothering heaps of twisted rubble. I remember watching people fleeing for their lives, running in heels and business attire. I could only imagine their fear, horror and confusion. I remember watching the towers burn, then crumble, knowing there were people trapped and unable to escape, experiencing unimaginable terror. I remember trying to imagine people attempting to flee the towers, descending more stairs than I can imagine or is physically possible. Some were even carrying other injured strangers.

I remember people helping people, saving others to only die themselves.  I remember feeling great sadness and anger that humans could and would impose such evil destruction on innocence people in the name of their “god” and their hate for a nation not their own.

This past weekend we finally got to visit New York City and the 9/11 memorial. It was a very well done and touching memorial. I would highly recommend it. It brought back the memories, the feelings and most of the pictures and videos we had already seen-in real time. It was eerie to see actual pieces that survived the destruction, pictures of those killed and stand on the actual footprint of the site.

One of the reflective pools that covers the actual footprint size (1 acre) of one of the towers. It was bigger than it looks but smaller that what you would think. The names of the victims were written on the edge. White roses are placed each day on the victim’s birthday.

 

The front of the new Freedom Tower.

Looking straight up. It was a foggy day and hard to get good pictures. There were two planes attached to the front of the building near the top.

 

There were at least four walls of pictures of the almost 3,000 victims, plus those killed in the bombing of the tower in 1993.

 

Survivors’ Stairsteps: the actual steps that survived and that people used to flee to safety.

Another set that survived.

An elevator motor.

The base to the signal tower on top of the tower.

 

New York Fire Department #3 Ladder Truck.

A steel beam.

As steel beam bent into a horse shoe.

Another beam.

Another beam. That is not graffiti. It is codes left by firemen to note their location.

Our tour guide. We were standing on the footprint of the tower with one of the walls in the background.

Column pillars.

“Dedicated to those who fell and to those who carry on.”

Trinity Church is located about 2 blocks from the towers. After 9/11, it opened it’s doors to the first responders and volunteers as a place of rest and refreshment. Food was served, the pews were used for sleeping, and spiritual counseling was provided.

 

The towers could be seen from the back street of the church. That is the new Freedom Tower in the background. I am thinking the dark strip marks the height of which the plane penetrated. But I do not know that for sure.

Another business very close to the towers that became a hangout for the many volunteers during the cleanup was O’Hare’s Restaurant & Pub. We ate supper there.  The walls and ceilings are covered with badges and shirts donated by the first responders from all over the country. Thousands and thousands of them. We found a few from Virginia by our table. The place was packed.

Another memorial that was very touching to me was the “Tear Drop Memorial”.

There is a lot of symbolism in this very thoughtful, sensitive and well designed 10–story sculpture by Zurab Tsereteli  and donated by the people of Russia.  Twenty-six Russians died in the trade center bombing in 1993 and 9/11. Freedom Tower can be seen through the eye of the memorial.  It was given to the state of New York who refused it. Finally, New Jersey agreed to accept it.  You have to know about it to find it. It is on a canal street by the Hudson River in Bayonne. There are no signs to direct you and no advertising to draw your attention to it. You think you could not possibly be going to the right place as you wind through a shipping area with containers, warehouses and sea ships. It is very disturbing to me that this lovely gift as been treated in such a disrespectful way.

The walk way around the memorial list the names of the people from New Jersey who died on 9/11 and the bombing of the tower in 1991.

 

Something about this does not set well with me.  To me, it is embarrassing to think that New York would refuse such a gift. Putin came for the dedication of the memorial.  I say to the people of Russia, thank-you for the beautiful, thoughtful and kind expression of sympathy for America and Russia’s grief. Our hearts were broken that fateful day, many tears were shed and the grief of loss is still felt by those who lost loved ones.

For more information about the controversy surrounding the sculpture click on this link.

We will remember…….

 Other New York trip blog posts:

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