I enjoyed a short but lovely visit with my son in Jersey City, NJ over the Christmas holidays. A bit of culture shock for me to stay in the city, after living out here in the Daniel Boone National Forest. On Christmas day, with temperatures incredibly in the mid-50s and the sun shining, we decided to visit Liberty State Park and walk off our dinner. Amazingly, even though I was born, raised, and lived in NJ until 1995, I’ve never been there or even close to the Statue of Liberty. And, I had not been anywhere close to the NY Skyline since 9-11.
They’ve built a beautiful memorial in Liberty Park, called the Empty Sky Memorial. It was dedicated on Sept. 11, 2011. You can read more about this park here. The two walls are as long as the Towers were wide and direct the visitor to a view of Ground Zero, just across the water and a little more than a mile away. The names of NJ residents lost on 9-11 are inscribed on the walls. The Freedom Tower is filling the empty space where the Towers once stood.
The old train station is still there, and I realized my father probably came right through here after Ellis Island. We drove around to the other side of the park and then walked again, for a closer view of Liberty and Ellis Islands. From this vantage point we were behind the Lady, but that didn’t matter. I couldn’t help but think of my father, my grandmother, my aunt and uncles who came to America in the early 1920s, passing through this place – and tried to imagine what they were thinking and feeling.
I’m sort of ashamed that it’s taken me this long to get this close, especially having grown and spending most of my life in NJ. I suppose, living a little over 50 miles away, it was either too far, or we just never found the time. Or, quite possibly, we just took it all for granted.
But I think getting closer to it, seeing it in person – is something every American should do. You’ll understand why when you do it.