17. huhti, 2018

A day in New York

Fluffy haired Inkeri and Risto stare straight into my eyes with serious looks on their little faces from the print of a black and white photo at the National Museum of Immigration on Ellis Island. These Finnish children had crossed the Atlantic together with their widowed mother, in hope of a new life in America, like millions of other Europeans at the turn of the 20th century. Ellis island, located in New York harbour, used to function as an immigration inspection and processing centre where people hoping to enter the country were registered and put through a health inspection and even a rudimentary IQ test. Upon passing these tests, the new arrivals were free to enter New York and find work in whichever field of employment was most suited to their abilities. After delving into the history of immigration for a couple of hours, I have no doubt about the force on which the American welfare state was built upon.

A short ferry journey later, we’re greeted by New York’s most iconic landmark; the Statue of Liberty. It’s quite moving to think about the sense of relief that the sight of this magnificent , 93m tall monument signifying freedom and democracy, must have brought to those feeling worn out after a long journey across the Atlantic. We climb a hundred steps up onto a viewing platform to take in the incredible view of Brooklyn bridge and the numerous skyscrapers of Manhattan. There’s a big crowd of us visitors, all wishing to capture this iconic city landscape, which makes the atmosphere quite cramped. The sheer amount of different languages being spoken around us is intoxicating!

Upon our arrival in Manhattan, we stop at Battery Park for a short while to watch an acrobatic performance, demonstrated by a group of muscly, confident young men. They ask for volunteers from the audience and the resulting backflips over a little boy have us holding our breath, hoping that their little helper stays still. We go for a walk along Broadway and take a skeet at the posters advertising different musicals currently being shown at the various theatres on this world famous street. On Wall Street, between the tall buildings of the finance district, we see plenty of men in white collars, hurrying around with their brief cases, advancing forward in their careers as much as on the pavement.

One place that we definitely don’t want to miss, is the infamous site of the World Trade Centre. On the place where the twin towers used to stand, there are now two memorial pools. The names of all who perished in that awful act of terrorism have been engraved in bronze around the pools. The list of names is shockingly long! We get to know more about the events of 9/11 in the neighbouring museum, dedicated to marking that day in history. The horrifying reality of the attack really hits home, when we stand in-front of large walls of photographs, depicting pictures of 2700 individuals of different ages who lost their lives unexpectedly in the middle of an otherwise perfectly ordinary, September day here in New York, at the Pentagon in Washington D.C. as well as in Pennsylvania. We stop for a moment and listen to a recording, on which the family members of the victims talk about their loved ones.

Both sill deep in thought, we leave the museum and walk into a warm spring evening. Oh how I wish that us, different people all around the world, would never see each other as faceless enemies, but would grow to understand and appreciate humanity and the worth of every individual life.