When I was ten I went to the Statue of Liberty for the first time. We took the Irish student that lived with us for a summer - some how it took a foreign 10-year old to provide a good excuse to see our own history and national symbols. But whatever, that's neither here nor there.
We walked the incredibly long spiraling staircase to the top - not the very top because in 1983 the arm was already closed and not a single person was hiking it up to the torch. We went merely to the crown. I remember feeling as if we'd never get there, as if these twisting and turning stairs were going to consume me for the rest of my natural life. Once we emerged and pushed our way to the small windowed openings of the Statue's forehead those achey leg muscles and the labored breathing were forgotten. The view was splendid.
Yesterday we took our children to the Statue. We left the house with no plans to share with them the view from Lady Liberty's head - I mean really, who wants to carry 50 lbs of children up that many stairs even with two parents sharing the load? Besides, it seems no one, even those brave and fit enough to pursue the lofty goal, is getting anywhere near the good views since everything above the big green toe of Ms L is closed up tight and forbidden.
We knew to expect tighter security. We knew we'd have to get a "time pass" if we wanted to bring the kids in to the base museum. We knew we'd have to leave the backpack at home with the stroller in favor of the "small tote doubling as diaper bag." But we didn't expect what we found.
There in the shadows of the Twin ghosts we stood upon a dock at the old railroad station awaiting to board the ferry that would shuttle us to a national symbol of liberty and immigration. Only the baby got to keep her jacket on - the rest of us had to remove ours and place it in a bin with our belts, our bag, our watches and our wallets that would travel through the xray machine. B had to carry the little man through the metal detector as the boy buried his head in Dad's shoulder - a bit intimidated by the security protocol and the uniformed officer overseeing it all.
It was sobering - to be doing this here. The last time I visited the Statue and Ellis Island was 4 years ago. Before hell visited NYC. Before flames consumed our sense of safety. There were no check points. There where no uniformed guards to check our bags.
But now there is. Lest we forget - there in the shadows of the fallen Towers lies a reminder.