Saturday, January 17, 2015

Ellis Island

As we boarded the boat from Liberty State Park I felt the excitement that always seems to overtake me as I was about to visit something new, one of America's most historic sites on the East Coast, Ellis Island.  Between 1892 and 1954 over 12 MILLION immigrants passed through the islands screening center and ultimately settled in the United States.  Many arrived after spending weeks at sea, making the crossing from Europe.    

The only way to get to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty is by boat  from either Lower Manhattan in New York City or from Liberty State Park in Jersey City, New Jersey.  On a September day we passed through security at the park, then boarded a boat for a modest $18 to visit Ellis Island, the onward to the Statue of Liberty.

On my next trip I will dedicate half a day to see the museum at Ellis Island and wander the island grounds.  There is a stainless steel memorial with several hundred thousand names engraved on the grounds with a stunning view of Lower Manhattan in the distance.  You cannot help but imagine being a recent immigrant on the island, staring at the fabled New York City in the distance, so close yet so far away. 

A sculpture of an immigrant on Ellis Island with the Statue of Liberty in the background. 

The Great Hall or Registry Room, where millions of immigrants to the United States were interviewed, screened by doctors and otherwise sorted for suitability for entry into the United States.  Millions of people entered the country through this room.  The day I visited not many visitors were on the island, the sense of history was palpable inside this room and I imagined the level of noise caused by so many languages being spoken all at once so many years ago, day after day, year after year.  

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