We The People: Ellis Island

The Path That Determines Destiny

The Preamble to the Constitution begins with the familiar words, “We The People.” In order to fully realize the impact of these words and the freedoms being accorded today it is so important to go back and to look back. A recent visit to Ellis Island was as powerful for me as entering any cathedral, temple or mosque. I felt as if it was truly “sacred ground”. From 1892 to 1954, over 12 million immigrants entered the US through this portal…over 12 million people from all different races, cultures and beliefs, gathering, praying, hoping and dreaming for a future of promise and opportunity while pleading for an escape from persecution, poverty and oppression.

I walked in a type of silent reverence through these halls being struck by so many bags, personal items and photographs but there was one moment in particular that was such a touchstone for me. I was taken behind the scenes and shown places closed off to the public. The photograph above captures the exact point that set into motion the destiny of millions…my destiny. You see, my great grandparents were immigrants from Russia, Germany and Ireland. When they got to this point, they were all told to go to the right. They were now US citizens. The path to the left was for those being kept and or sent back due to the belief of a contagious disease. That one decision, that path set into motion a generational rippling effect. I, my grandparents, parents, brothers and sisters would now be blessed with the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This photograph hangs in my home to remind me how fortunate I am and how one moment, one decision can effect destiny.

Copyright 2012 Frances Schwabenland. Images may not be copied, printed or otherwise disseminated without express written permission of Frances Schwabenland.

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