10/17/17

Ellis Island

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, our plan was to walk to Ellis Island, a distance of about two miles. A cold and biting wind came up, and so we originally considered taking a Lyft since that was our only other option...except, duh, then we realized we already have a car and could drive ourselves. Apparently when one gets into the mode of using public transportation, one forgets that personal transportation can also be used. What a concept! Our truck has already driven us nearly 6,000 miles, and so two more was really nothing of concern.

When we made the final turn toward the parking lot at Liberty State Park in New Jersey, we traveled over cobblestone streets. Parking here was free, but limited to two hours, "strictly enforced," according to the sign. There were only a few cars in the large lot, and so it wasn't being enforced on this day. It was a good thing because we ended up staying longer than we expected.


We were met by a contingent of Canada geese.


Also, we made the discovery of New Jersey's 9/11 Memorial, known as "Empty Sky." It was beautiful in its simplicity. You can read more about it right here.


On each of the "columns" to the right and left of the image above is etched a message. It was difficult to photograph because the surface is bright and shiny, and my own reflection was the only thing the camera could see. I've dinked around with the lighting and contrast in Photoshop Elements, and I'm hoping you can read what each side says.



These names represent New Jersey's sons and daughters who were lost on that day.



Walking through and seeing One World Trade Center was poignant.


There's an incredible view of the Manhattan skyline from the state park. We ended up spending so much time on our trip to Ellis Island, we didn't spend any time at the park, except this brief stopover for the memorial. But take a look at that skyline. The middle section is the Financial District of Manhattan, but notice that the skyline extends all the way around the island on the right and left of the image.


And the river is very busy with sailboats, barges, and ferries. There is constant movement.

Turning around, one sees the Central Railroad terminal of New Jersey. The building was so large, it was difficult to back up far enough (while staying dry) to fit the whole thing in an image.


I'm hoping you can read this sign about the "Historic Trilogy" that makes up an immigrant's passage from his or her homeland into America. It began with the siting of the Statue of Liberty as their respective boats pulled up to the dock of Ellis Island. Those allowed in were ferried to this terminal to catch a train to their desired destination. Remember that you can make this image larger by clicking on it.


Behind the terminal, you can see where the many trains pulled into the station to transport these new Americans to their new homes.


Many lines, going many places.


Inside the terminal it looks like this:


We'd thought we could cross a footbridge out to Ellis Island, but here, we learned that the only way for a member of the general public to see it was to take a ferry out. Ferry passage also included a trip to Liberty Island where the Statue of Liberty stands. As I mentioned earlier, there was a cold and biting wind blowing, and so I decided to go back to the truck for my sweatshirt at this point. Along the way, I noticed how the cobblestone street contrasted with the more modern brick sidewalk.


We were subjected to a rather brusque security screening before boarding the ferry. From there, we could see Ellis Island in the distance.


Looking back as we pulled away, we could see the train station.


It was a short trip out to the island. The museum is a part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument, operated by the National Park Service.


This is how it looks as you approach on the ferry.


Our payment included the use of these handheld listening devices for a self-guided tour of the museum.


And, honestly, I had no idea the dehumanizing experience of being "processed" through Ellis Island. Ellis Island was in operation from 1892-1954 (the year I was born). While it's true that I am older than dirt, this still seems a relatively recent event.


Coming through the doors, one is first located in the luggage area. It was a huge room.


From there, one moved up a flight of stairs into the Registry Room.


Looking at it today, it's a large room, somewhat intimidating, but also beautiful.



I saw a quilt here:


with this border (minus the feet):


Back in the day, it looked like this:


Newly-arrived immigrants were screened starting with how they walked up the stairs.



Detailed manifests were kept by the ships that brought them. They were questioned about some of the information provided on the manifest. If their answers didn't match up, there was cause for suspicion, and they could be held back.


They were also subjected to examinations of their eyes. Buttonhooks were used to turn back their eyelids.


They were inspected for signs of this disease:


As I considered this, I could put myself in the place of the medical examiners. One need only look back in history at the experience of the indigenous population when Europeans brought new diseases to which they had no immunity. Also, the state of medical care wasn't what it is today. There were no antibiotics, for example, and so while the process was indeed dehumanizing, it's easy to be sympathetic to the concerns of the day.

The voice on our listening device discussed the experience of being a newly-arrived immigrant, not speaking the language, being herded into a huge room, to confront strangers asking all sorts of questions (not to mention peeling back their eyelids with a buttonhook). Some gazed around in open-mouthed awe (or fear), and just the confusion on their faces could cause them to be subjected to "mental testing." It's no laughing matter, but these two signs hanging together gave me a chuckle.


I suppose the first test was not to trip while going through the door.

There was a display set up where we could try one of the "tests." Mike is an engineer, and it took him about ten minutes to put this puzzle together accurately.


At another display, more of these tests could be seen.


If an immigrant was sick, they could be sent back to their country of origin, or they could be sent to this hospital facility across the harbor for treatment.



Immigrants who were denied entry received a hearing where they could appeal their cases. This room has been restored to look as it might have in 1911.


They could also be detained and held in dormitories as their individual cases were investigated. The dormitories could be seen in the structure next door to the large terminal.


Some of the photos were heart-breaking. Imagine being a child of this age and housed at a dormitory, your fate unknown for days or weeks.



If they gained entry, their foreign currency was exchanged for American. This display had the paper and coin currency of countless countries.


And there were some hopeful stories of aid workers who provided coats, and other supplies to new immigrants. This "aid worker" (I interpret that as "social worker") was handing out sewing supplies.


When we'd seen and heard all we wanted to, we visited the gift shop where I picked up another refrigerator magnet.


Then we boarded the ferry for the second part of our ferry passage, a trip to Liberty Island. We opted not to get off at the island, but we still enjoyed seeing Lady Liberty close up. I probably took a hundred pictures of the Statue of Liberty alone on our visit here. It was the one thing I most wanted to see on this visit, and the thrill never left me.




I put down the camera long enough for Mike to snap this selfie. Ya' gotta do it, right?


Also, I zoomed in to see what was on the tablet. It's the date of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776.


Most of the other passengers got off at Liberty Island to spend more time exploring the statue. We got some hot pretzels and then road back to the train station. Along the way, we saw the Staten Island Ferry. We rode the Staten Island Ferry on our first day, mainly because we'd been told it was the best way to see the Statue of Liberty. But the journey on the Staten Island Ferry was a journey unto itself, and we were glad we did both.


Thus ends our trip to New York City. There is much we didn't see here, but we saw everything we wanted to see. It was well worth the nail-biter of a drive into town, and we have enjoyed our time here. Even the no-amenities RV park was a good experience. It was quiet at night, and we slept well here. Nevertheless, we continue to dislike cities of all kinds. We'll be glad to be on our way today. The kitties were restless last night. They are ready to be moving along too. Being packed in here at the park as we are, they haven't spent much time on their catio, and getting out for a walk hasn't been an option.

From here, we'll be heading to Intercourse, Pennsylvania. The closest RV park happens to be in Ronks, and we'll be spending two nights there before moving on to Harrisburg. I have a meet-up scheduled with my friend Robin (of The Emporer fame).


How many of you know your blogging friends via an introduction by their cats?

We have a day of quilt-shop-hopping planned. Robin is going to cart me around while Mike takes a well-deserved day off from driving and quilt shop visits. He's a good sport, but I know he'd just as soon stay at the RV.

It seems like a good time to mention that a few of you have written comments and requested meet-ups. If you are one of those and I have not responded, it's not because I'm ignoring you. It's because you are no-reply. It always makes me feel badly when someone asks a question or makes a request, or especially when someone shares a special personal anecdote. Please know that I never ignore a comment intentionally. If I do not respond to you, it is because I cannot. Google+ users, this especially applies to you. Please include your email if you want a response.

Also, if you have a Yahoo email address, I sometimes don't see your comment. Blogger does not notify me when a comment is left by a Yahoo user, and so I have to actually return to the blog post and read the comments there. When traveling, that becomes especially inconvenient. I may look back one day, but after that, I'm on to the next destination and the next post. Correspondence via email is welcome. You can find my email address at the top of my right sidebar.

Okay...enough of that. We're on to new horizons today. I hope you've enjoyed this virtual trip to New York City.