Courage has many faces. The word is used as a feeling described or an action taken but on a recent trip to New York City I witnessed the essences of courage.
In the city to work, I had decided to try and visit Ellis Island. All my grandparents had come through the island’s gates and, as a gift to my brother; I had my family’s name engraved on the Wall of Honor.
I completed my assignment early and braved the subway traffic to the Battery Park exit where I was told I could catch the ferry. As I stepped out into the bright, brisk September air I saw an amazing, unexpected sight. Before me lay a twisted, scorched obelisk surrounded by hundreds of long stemmed roses bleached white by
winter’s frost and summer’s sun. A crowd gathered quietly. I edged closer to see an eternal flame and a monument marker identifying the piece as the sculpture that had graced the plaza in front of the World Trade Tower. The memories of September 11 came unbidden to my mind as I again saw the haggard, tired faces of the rescue workers. And etched more indelibly in each face was courage.
Now pensive, I joined the crowds, moving through security to board the ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The first stop was Lady Liberty who I had visited as a child. I smiled as I pondered the tourists’ faces gazing up in awe but hurried back to catch the ferry to my final destination.
For the first time, I stepped onto the platform of Ellis Island and, in my mind’s eye, saw my grandparents, young, perhaps frightened yet filled with hope. But nothing prepared me for the great hall I entered next and for the rooms where wearied, tattered immigrants had mingled. I thought of my grandmother who had journeyed for twenty -four days in the pit of a ship with two small children and an infant, my father. Twenty-four days sharing facilities and food with double the passengers steerage was designed to hold. And as I watched a film of others so like her, I saw the faces of courage of those who committed themselves to this country so I might live in freedom.
I found my family’s name on the Wall of Honor. Gently brushing my fingers over the engraved name I was so proud of, I looked down the long, long wall of those who had come before. I said a prayer of gratitude to them and to the saviors of September 11th.
Different times and different faces but still faces of courage.
This I believe.
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