Jun 12, 2012

Experiencing the Gift of Liberty (and Ellis Island)

This could be just a postcard photo or photo ripped from the web.  It sure doesn't look much different than a run-of-the-mill photo of this American icon.  But it is different, because I took this photo myself, standing with my students on Liberty Island.  What an Experience!  And it wouldn't have been possible without the help of a lot of generous people!

Ask most Americans what they think of when they think of New York City, and I guarantee the Statue of Liberty will be one of the top icons of that city.  Ask people around the world what symbolizes America most besides the nation's flag, and again, I betting the Statue of Liberty will again top the list.  Clearly Lady Liberty was an absolute Must See for this trip.  But here's the thing:  A week before we left for New York it was crystal clear that we would not be able to visit the Statue of Liberty.

The bottom line was, well, the bottom line.  We didn't have enough money.  The 7th and 8th grade class had borrowed some $900 or so from the 8th grade class (classic case of robbing Peter to pay Paul) to meet the needs of our annual Heroes Reception and the Family Fun Day we'd planned to pay back the 8th graders had been a monetary bust.  We had enough money to get to New York, get around in the city (or I so thought then), eat, and have a comfortable place to stay.  Beyond that, there was nothing left.

The weekend before the trip, I weighed my options.  We could just walk around and look at free stuff for the whole trip--and really there is a lot to do that's free in the city.  But I wanted the kids to have Experiences, and how could we go to New York, especially on an educational trip and completely sidestep the lady in the harbor? I was tempted to slap it all on my personal credit card and be done, but I knew that  be patently irresponsible with another child on the way and serious family expenses looming.  Furthermore such apparent generosity would be sham designed to cloak my own perceived failings as a class sponsor and prevent me from having to really humble myself.  Because there was a third option that I hated to contemplate.  One that would push me out of my comfort zone and make me do one of things I hate doing most of all:  I could ask for money.  I could publish to friends far and near that a week before the class trip I was short on money and needed help.

After much prayer, I knew that asking for help was the right thing to do.  And so I sent out the word on Facebook, via e-mail, and face to face hat-passing.  And God came through.  He moved generous, thoughtful hearts all across the country to respond with gifts big and small.  I sent out my requests on Saturday night  May 12and Sunday  May 13 and by Tuesday, May 15, just a week before my students and I would board the ferry for the jaunt across the harbor to the Statue, I had commitments for over $1000!  Praise God!  And thank you so much to all of you who made this day, Tuesday, May 22, 2012 from start to finish possible.

My favorite photo of Lady Liberty and the Manhattan skyline. I took this photo as the ferry was beginning it's approach to Liberty Island. Tuesday, May 22, 2012
On Liberty Island.  The island itself is quite small.  You can walk around the whole island in about ten minutes.  Readers who know Saipan:  Think Managaha Island  transported to New York harbor with a giant statue plopped won in the middle.  We arrived just in time to catch a scheduled guided tour of the island.

Me and the Lady from a distance (left, on the ferry approaching the statue) and up close (below). Unfortunately, the Statue was undergoing renovations so we could not go into the base or up to Liberty's crown as we normally would have been able to do.  Full access to the Statue of Liberty is set to resume in October.

Our next stop was Ellis Island, the immigration processing center where at one time 70% of the immigrants to the United States, 5000 people per day at its peak, entered the United States.  I chose Statue Cruises over several other tour operators because they were the only ones that actually let visitors get off at Liberty Island and Ellis Island.  If my students were really going to learn anything about these important artifacts of our American heritage they were going to have to get off the boat!

The Great Hall of the former Ellis Island Immigration Center , now Museum.  Essentially this was once a giant waiting room where immigrants would wait to be seen by doctors and prepare to continue on to the mainland.  The complex at Ellis Island included a hospital, laundry, school, and many other facilities to care for immigrants that ended up being quarantined there.  We were fortunate to have outstanding guides on both Liberty and Ellis Island.  Our Ellis Island guide was so impressed with our group that he took us on extended tour to some of the sites on the island not on the standard itinerary and normally unavailable to tourists.

I'd like to extend a special thanks to my cousins Nicole Koeningshof, my cousin Yvette Saliba and her colleagues, Janelle Thomas, Alyssa Minisee, Jessica Lee, Greg Wedel, and Aaron Knowlton and his 8th grade class at Redlands Adventist Academy.  All of you gave us the ability to do all the fun and enriching activities we did during our New York trip.  Thank you so much!

  Aaron's class decided to donate some of their own class funds  to help us with our New York trip.  The kids made this short video post card for their peers in Redlands while on Liberty Island:

Me with "Smooth" (left) and "The Scientist" (in front) on Liberty Island with the Manhattan skyline in the background.  Note in the background the new tower at the World Trade Center site under construction.  Once you get away from shore you can really see how much taller the new Freedom Tower is than everything else in Manhattan.

1 comment:

Mai said...

That's so great that you were able to go to Liberty & Ellis Island!!! Hopefully next time you'll get to go up inside the statue!!!