Diary of an Immigrant

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This is yet another short writing that I did for IB English back in 2010 at Washington Academy. I had been recently inspired by a trip to New York, were I went to visit the Statue of Liberty. And look, I know that I have very little in common with the European immigrants from the late 1800's, but there's something definitely powerful in that statue. If you go now-a-days you'll see posters and exhibitions that display poems and journal entries of the immigrants who stayed on Ellis Island. After reading these, I empathized with a lot of their doubts, fear, and expectations when you're forced to leave home and leave to foreign lands.

28 July 1938

            It's been three weeks since I boarded this ship, I'm starting to get weary of it. The food is starting to run out, but Ma said that we're almost there, that in a day or two we would be arriving in America. America! I've been hearing about America since I was just a bairn, my Ma used to tell me how my old man had always dreamed of visiting it.

            I later heard Ma talking to Mrs. O' Connel, although she said she was excited, I sensed a tad of sadness in her tone; she said she would miss the house they had near the sea. I actually think that she is the only one that misses home, everyone else has nothing to miss, because we never had anything back home.

            The supper bell just rang, I better go look for brother, that wee rascal is probably playing tag with Lucy on the deck.

30 July 1938

            Ma woke me and brother up late at night, she seemed excited, we're here, she said, and led me to the deck. There was a huge crowd. It was quiet and dark. I couldn't see anything anywhere. Then suddenly brother asked what that was, and pointed at a dim dim glow on the horizon. My mother simply pointed at the light which was glowing brighter and said “America”. Everyone on the deck was quiet, and we stayed there, in pitch black, not able to tell the sky from the ocean, or your hand from your leg. An air of anticipation and hope grew thicker as the light closed in and a silhouette started being drawn in the middle of the dark.

            I don't know how long we spent staring at that light, it must have been hours, but it all felt like seconds. Thinking about it now, I know that this light represented all of our hopes and our sacrifices; this is what we had been waiting for since we got on that boat.

            Slowly the silhouette started taking shape, at first I thought that we were looking at a tall building, or some sort of lighthouse, it started clearing, it was definitely not a lighthouse, nor did it have the shape of a building. Through the silence the quiet murmurings of families wondering what that was.

            Suddenly, the boat hushed, and I could feel everyone's hearts beating and pumping faster, eyes flooded with tears, tears of joy. It was something I had never experienced before. Time froze, and there I stood looking up to her. She looked upon me and I swear that although she didn't speak, she welcomed me, she guided me with her light, and promised me new hope.

            You know, people tell you that during these moments, time stops, what they don't tell you is that after they happen, the flow of time speeds up. Suddenly we were already past her, on Ellis Island. The voices of men shouting, people cheering, everyone jostling, “Everyone please, take your belongings and form a line at the back of the ship”. Only a few headed back to their rooms, the rest of us had no luggage. We left Dublin with our clothes and a box of pictures; we have nothing, but we need nothing, We are going to make it here, I'm sure.

            We descended into the checkup building; the place was damp and cold, but nothing out of the ordinary, definitely not Dublin cold. We stayed in line for a long time, people were quiet. I think that nobody wanted to be sent back, being sent back means that there is no way you're coming back here. Although I don't think they will send us back, I am still very nervous.

            Finally our turn. We stood in front of a man. I could swear I've met before. He looked at us, and asked us some questions. He spoke faster and faster, he checked papers and stamped them, then he stopped. “Very well everything is in order, please follow me”. He led us to a room, with two large rows of bed. We're supposed to stay here until tomorrow, when they take us to the mainland.

            My brother fell asleep straight away, poor lad hasn't slept at all. My Ma beside him, sleeps clutching the picture box to her chest. I can't sleep. I can't stop staring out the window at her holding that torch.  Although she has her back to me, she is still magnificent. I reach into my pocket, and there is a picture of you, Dad. How I wish you where here.

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