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Part 3 of 3: Give Me Your Tired, Poor and Huddled Masses
by Cookie Curci
My grandfather never spoke much about his early days in America, or the long ship ride over the ocean, but he often mentioned the awesome feeling he experienced as a young boy when his steamer ship from Naples, Italy, approached Ellis Island. The moment was engraved in his memory. He recalled the almost eerie silence that fell over the ship; how his papa, who he had never seen cry, was now weeping openly as Lady Liberty came into view, embracing his wife and three children with uncontrollable joy.
My grandmother and her two young siblings came to America as orphans. After losing their parents to influenza, the young trio pooled their resources and boarded a ship for America. To them, the sight of the grand, historic, lady meant hope for a new and better life. The grand statue had come to embody the spirit of their new land--exemplifying hope and prosperity.
Whenever I asked my grandmother where she found the courage to take that voyage of a lifetime, she would invariably say, in her native Italian: "A ship is safe in port, but that's not where a ship was meant to be." She was right of course. A ship is meant to challenge the elements, ride the high seas and risk being sunk. Desire alone just doesn't cut it.
Tales of our immigrant ancestors are repeated again and again across America. From father to son, from grandmother to grandchild, we keep the legacy alive with every story told, with every memory recalled. It is their spirit of adventure that grounds us to this country and it is that same spirit that gives us our wings.
On the plaque of the Statue of Liberty is the poem, "The New Colossus" written by Emma Lazarus. The following words from that poem hung proudly framed on the wall of my grandparents' home throughout their lifetime: "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
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