It was our intent to wake up at the butt-crack of dawn on Saturday in order to get to Ellis Island early enough to buy a special pass so that we would be able to go up further on the Statue of Liberty. I wasn’t so sure we’d (I mean, I would) be able to pull it off, but we did! After a quick breakfast of Shredded Wheat and grape juice, we headed out. Taking I-78 east, we arrived at our destination about an hour after we initially left my parents’ house.
Pulling up to the site, I didn’t know quite what to expect. As we walked toward the front door of the depot station, I snapped a picture of Dave being silly, pretending to pick his nose, and I laughed out loud. I showed him the result and he insisted I delete it. No way, man, no freakin’ way. LOL Upon entering the depot, a HUGE flag made up of various flags sewn together caught my attention. It hung from what seemed to be the sky and, as I walked closer to it, I saw that it was a memorial flag for 9/11.
Dave and I walked around outside and took some pictures of the water and the ferry we’d be riding on to reach the Island. The view was fantastic – we could see parts of NYC to one side and, on the other, we saw the Island and Statue of Liberty. My parents were still standing in line for the ’special’ tickets as we came back inside, so Dave and I walked around and took some pictures of the architecture. I imagined all the people immigrating to the USA – over 12 million, I’m told, passed through the “golden door of Ellis Island” – making the long journey to live what they thought would be a more prosperous life.
Shortly after we came back inside, my parents were ready to stand in line for the ferry. The four of us made our way through the metal detectors and proceeded to the ferry, where we each found a seat on the top level. My parents brought their video camera along, so I was able to capture some footage of the ferry toodling over to the Island. I tried my best to make it a worthwhile account, but I suck! All I could think about was how shaky my hand was, and “why can’t the zoom button be easier to handle?” We docked at Ellis Island and, when we were off the ferry, my mom took a picture of Dave and me in front of the sign.
“Opened on January 1, 1892, Ellis Island became the nation’s premier federal immigration station. In operation until 1954, the station processed over 12 million immigrant steamship passengers. The main building was restored after 30 years of abandonment and opened as a museum on September 10, 1990.” (National Park Service)
Did you know that over 40 percent of America’s population today can trace their ancestry through Ellis Island?
The museum is located in the Main Building of the former immigration station complex, and (after we looked around on our own for a short time) that’s where we were treated to a free public tour by a Park Ranger. Part of the processing of immigrants meant there had to be a medical inspection of all people. The inspection lasted all of six seconds for each person and, in that time, doctors would watch immigrants walk up a long staircase and then ‘chalk‘ symbols on potentially sick people. For those marked, a second inspection was required, and then they were either sent to the hospital or sent packing. Some famous Ellis Island immigrants: Bob Hope, the Trapp family singers, Irving Berlin and Lucky Luciano. And, yes, there really is a Chef Boyardee – he came through Ellis Island as well!
Once we made it through all of the tour, we had a picnic at one of the tables outside. From there, we could see the ferries docking and bringing in more people. There were gobs of pigeons, some as big as a small dog – I found them to be quite interesting, now I wish I had taken a picture of one of them. The weather was quite comfortable and we chatted for awhile as we ate our lunch. Eventually, made it back on the ferry to toodle over to the next destination on our itinerary, the Statue of Liberty.
As soon as we arrived, we were greeted by a long line of people who were standing under a white tent. We were going through another round of security, only this time (when we made it inside the building) we walked through the blowers (does anyone know what they are really called?). We made our way through a short exhibit. “The Statue of Liberty exhibit, which opened in July 1986 and is located on the second floor in the pedestal of the Statue, traces the history and symbolism of the Statue of Liberty through museum objects, photographs, prints, videos and oral histories. In addition to historical artifacts and descriptive text, full-scale replicas of the Statue’s face and foot are also on display.” (The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation) There are all kinds of fun facts about her that I wasn’t aware of until visiting. Did you know she has a 35-foot waistline? Yet another tidbit for the knowledge bank! As soon as we completed the walk-through of the exhibit, we ascended the hundreds of stairs to reach the highest point of the Statue open to visitors. I had to stop at least once along the way, even though I started out really well. There was one lady who became claustrophobic and came running down the stairs – I did my best to stay out of her way.
At the base of the Statue, I took several pictures. Some looking up, some looking out onto the water and New York City. Back down on the pedestal, one of my parents took a picture of Dave and I with Jersey City in the background. I took a picture with the camera on my cell phone of the Statue, and sent it to Rob and the kids. We exited the area, and sat down to rest (and have a quick bite to eat) for a few moments before we planned on heading over to the City to see Ground Zero and Times Square.