Nathan is Hebrew and means "gift from God" - we couldn't have been more blessed than to have been chosen as his parents!

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Ellis Island ~ Bridging Five Generations

Our last day of vacation was very special. It was the day, our son, and his great great-Jido's (grandfather) life formed a lasting bond in my heart. Before my Jido passed away, I had our family's name placed on the Wall of Honor at Ellis Island. I had yet to see our name on the Wall, all I'd seen was the certificate that I presented to my grandfather acknowledging its existence.

When I began my graduate school work, I conducted an ethnographic research project on my family's life, and their immigration to the United States. It was a wonderful project. Some day, I'll blog about it, so Nathan will too know the story of our family. Like most of America in those days, my great grandparents came to the United States on a boat through Ellis Island. Placing our name on that Wall was a symbolic gesture of hope and HONOR to my grandfather, and reflective of my love for him and our family. It was my last gift to him, and means the world to me. I couldn't wait to find it and show it to Danny and Nathan.

We began our day, at Liberty State Park in New Jersey, where we boarded a ferry to Ellis Island. This was Nathan's first ferry ride, and because it was such a super hot day, we enjoyed some strawberry icee on the way.

As we approached Ellis Island, I was taken aback by its size ~ it's much larger than I had imagined. We soon learned we were only seeing part of the Island. There were medical buildings behind the main building that is separated by a canal that aren't visible from where we unloaded.
When we entered the building, we headed straight to the computers to look up my family name. I had a hard time finding it because our family name was switched as my great grandparents went through Ellis Island. It wasn't Corey when they came to America. It was Lebanese, and although I can verbalize it, spelling it was another story. I couldn't find it. The computers also allowed me to search by purchasers name, so I tried and SUCCESS! I found our family name on panel 684 ~ we were off! I couldn't wait! I was so excited, yet moved to tears. Just being there, and knowing this is how my family came to America, and feeling like they were still here, on this Wall, to be honored forever, was awesome.

As we walked the Wall in search of our panel, my heart broke. As we came just a few panels away from ours ~ this is what we found. My family's panel was behind the construction area. Parts of Ellis Island are being restored, so there are large sections of the Wall that aren't visible to tourists.

Just as we were about to walk away, Danny spotted the panel, inside just before the green divider you see here in the picture. Just as we were discussing how to break in, a construction worker pulled up in a dozer, and upon seeing us gazing at the Wall, asked if our name was back there. We said, "yes, we think it's the one right before the green barrier." He said, "just move the stuff and come in. You people come a long way to see this Wall. Take your time."

How awesome was that!!! I get chocked up writing about it. Danny was right! It was the panel just before the green barrier!!!!
Feeling as if we were entering an area we really shouldn't be, even with permission, I went alone. It took some time, but I found it!! There it was ~ The Peter Corey-Douaihy Family! Finally. After I found our name, Danny carried Nathan through the barricade, and took one of the most memorable pictures of my life. I was so moved to tears, I couldn't contain myself. The beauty of watching Nathan place his little finger on our family's name is indescribable. It was as if the generations had come together all at once, if that makes any sense. And, as I looked at where we were, I thought about my family's history, and how my great-grandfather almost became a priest, but experienced a terrible accident that ultimately led him to America. And then I looked at my son and my husband, and thanked God for everything that had occurred for five generations that brought us to this very moment.

This is a great picture because we are standing in front of panel 684, and you can see just how close we were to not having this opportunity. What a blessing.

On our way back to the main building for lunch, we were stopped by a woman who asked us how old Nathan was. She spent a few minutes ooing and aahhing over him, and then told us she too had a daughter with Down syndrome. She showed us her baby pictures that she carries with her; she was adorable! Her name was Maria and she had passed away. The love for her daughter and sadness of her passing was so touching. As she left, she said something to us that no one has every said that wasn't part of our inner circle, and come to think of it, I'm not really sure how many of them have ever said this ~ she said, "congratulations." And she meant it with her heart. We replied, "thank you." What a miraculous day.

Once we left Ellis Island we headed to meet Lady Liberty! America's symbol of freedom and hope. What a beautiful gift to our country ~ she is magnificent!

Just like Lady Liberty, I have hope for Nathan, and for our country, that one day every family will be congratulated on the birth of their child with, or without, a disability. Hope that one day, the 'walls of difference' will be celebrated, and each person honored for their contribution to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. God bless America.


John and Michelle said...

Very touching story Kandi. I love the picture of Nathan's finger on the wall. It's something you would see in a magazine. It's totally a framer.

Mairead Elizabeth Hickok said...

What an incredibly moving post-- I am in tears just thinking about how special that moment was for you, and that picture of Nathan's little hand on the wall is absolutely precious. Thanks for sharing this with us!!!