Updated: Mar 11
This past weekend was Memorial Day weekend, a weekend most people in America associate with drinking booze, chilling by the pool, huge shopping deals, BBQing and fireworks.... But we must remember why we have that Monday off. Memorial Day is a day on which those who died in active military service are remembered. This is also a time to thank those who are still alive who have served or are still serving.
Instead of going down the shore and having to deal with large amounts of people in small and crammed spaces, my boyfriend and I thought Monday would be a nice day to go visit Liberty State Park. Located in Jersey City NJ, Liberty State Park is a park in the U.S. state of New Jersey, located on Upper New York Bay in Jersey City, opposite both Liberty Island and Ellis Island. It offers a ferry service that can bring you to Ellis Island and Statue of Liberty.
I have been to Ellis Island several times. My Great Grandmother came to America from Italy on New Years of 1919 on a ship called the Europa. I was very fortunate to know my great grandmother for the amount of time that I did. She was a true traditional independent Italian woman that cleaned and gardened almost every day, and a woman that would not let you leave her house on an empty stomach. She loved all her family very much, and loved when people visited her. I would go over her house a lot of the time, because my parents were working or were in college night classes. Every time I came over, she had new stories to tell me about her life in Italy, her life in the United States, and her voyage to here. She always told me how excited she was when she saw the Statue of Liberty and how cool it was to see the fireworks going off around it. It was a magical day for her. In second grade she even came to my class to speak about her journey. Even though I thought her stories were cool back then, I wish I could go back and ask her more questions, because her story interests me now more than ever.
Visiting Ellis Island was always so cool to me, especially when I went with my Great Grandma because she would show me everything and tell me stories about each room, without even needing the signs. She told these stories as if it had happened the day before. She showed me the room which she had slept in, and even showed me items that she had brought to America, but later donated to the Ellis Island museum. My great grandma had such amazing stories that people we didn't even know began to follow us around as asked her questions.
Though I have passed the Statue of Liberty on the ferry, for some reason, I don't remember ever stopping at the Statue of Liberty stop and actually admiring it closer up. Getting to the dock to board the ferry, I couldn't help but notice that the majority of the people who were coming onto the ferry were minorities. Indians, Chinese, African American, Latino/a, etc. It was pretty interesting observing all of these people from different cultures getting on this boat to head to Statue of Liberty. Even though we were all different, we all had one thing in common: Our goal was to see the Statue of Liberty. Is this what it felt like for my great grandmother and other immigrants of different backgrounds who boarded ships to come to America? When we got off the ferry, I was amazed to see how diverse the crowd was. Everyone was smiling, laughing, excited, taking pictures with Lady Liberty, etc. Looking around, I stood silent. I couldn't get out of my head how beautiful the sight of all this was. It was beautiful to see that all of us at the Statue of Liberty were all different shapes, sizes, colors, etc... but we all shared the same eagerness to see the Statue of Liberty that day and we all shared the same awe of how beautiful and cool it looked in person. I thought about all the people I saw, thinking about how we all come from immigrants. Some of us first generation, second generation, etc. Some of us coming from boats, planes or even by foot. It made me think back to when my great grandmother told me about the deaths she saw on the boat she was on, and how they threw the bodies overboard, and how rough it was for her to witness....It made me think about the sacrifices modern day immigrants make to come to America as well. All the sacrifice, to come to this country.
It made me think, why do people judge others by the color of their skin or the things they wear or the things they eat? Why, because some people don't act the "American Way?" Because tell me, what IS the "American Way?" We are known as the melting pot, our society made up of a bunch of different cultures and backgrounds. We all come from somewhere else, so why are we judging those who come from certain regions of the world? We all deserve a chance to live the best lives that we can.
My great grandmother did, why can't others?
And that is how the Statue of Liberty opened my eyes.