Our second day in New York City was spent at the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. We took a ferry to Liberty Island, where we enjoyed lunch on a bench along the water, admiring the beautiful view of Manhattan. There were several hundred people on Liberty Island, but the atmosphere was surprisingly calm and serene. Definitely not something we expected to find in the Big Apple.
Sadly, we weren’t able to go inside the Statue of Liberty. Touring the crown and pedestal requires a reservation several months in advance, and the torch has been closed since July 30th, 1916, when it was damaged by the Black Tom Bombing. The bombing was done by German agents in order to destroy United States munitions that would be sent to the Allies during World War I. The U.S. was still neutral at that point.
The only people who have access to the torch are National Park Service employees. They have to climb a 40-foot ladder to access the floodlights that light the torch. Have any of you been inside the statue? What was it like? Perhaps you even know someone who climbed up to the torch a hundred years ago?
Ellis island was the highlight for me. We walked through the main building, where the immigrants arrived, with an excellent tour guide. It was interesting to hear that only the steerage passenger set foot on Ellis Island. The richer folks had their inspections on the ship and were dropped off right in Manhattan.
The photo above shows the main hall, where the immigrants were processed. Below are the stairs that they were sent down after inspection. One row was for those who were cleared to enter the United States. One was for those who would be detained on the island. In that case, immigrants would have to decide whether the entire family would stay together on Ellis Island together, at their own expense, or whether the rest of the family would leave the detained individuals behind and begin to make a life in America, with hopes of reuniting. If the family’s sole breadwinner was detained, the others would not be allowed to enter the country until he or she was released. The government wanted to make sure that immigrant families had the ability to earn money and feed their children.
The third row was for the immigrants who would be sent back to their home country, expenses paid for by the company that owned the ship that had brought them. We were intrigued to learn that that is still the case. If you fly to another country and are not allowed to enter for whatever reason, the airline is responsible for taking you home.
Through the doors at the bottom of the stairs is the area known as the “Kissing Post,” where family members and friends were reunited.
Near the main hall, the tour guide pointed out a pillar covered in historic graffiti, written by immigrants who were detained at Ellis Island.
Do any of my American or Canadian readers have relatives who passed through Ellis Island? Our tour guide said that 40% of United States citizens do.