A trip to the Statue of Liberty
by Rick Boutcher
("Two Winds Estate" Carosucan Norte, Asingan, Pangasinan, Philippines)
1954, Six years old, first grade, learning about the great country I was living in and the history behind its greatness. Learned about a great Statue that stood in Lower Manhattan Bay, on its own Island, called, Liberty Island. The Statue of course, the very famous Statue of Liberty.
Saw pictures and heard the stories and I had even seen this great Statue of Liberty, off in the distance, from the promenade that walked the shoreline of Battery Park when our family took an outing.
Oh it was so far away and there was a boat ride needed to get to the Island on which the Statue of Liberty stood. Wow, imagine taking a boat ride to see the Statue up close. But, our family was not of a lot of money and the closest we could get to a boat ride to see the Statue of Liberty was to take a ride on the Staten Island Ferry, it only cost a nickel each. The Ferry would go from Battery Park to Staten Island and passed very close to the Statue of Liberty and I used to imagine that this was the trip.
Dad used to play the numbers, whatever that was, and one day he came home all excited that he had won. How much he had actually won I did not know, but he was talking to Mom about going out to the Statue of Liberty this coming weekend. Maybe Saturday. Oh boy! My mind started to race, I was going to go to the great Statue. I was going to be able to stand in front of it up really close. I might even be able to touch it. What a wonderful story to be able to tell the other kids in my class. I had been to the Statue of Liberty!! Like I was a great explorer. But it got better. One night while we were having dinner Dad told us all officially, Mom, BJ, Grandma and me, that we would be going to the Statue of Liberty this coming Saturday and not only stand on Liberty Island and look at the great Statue, but we were going to be able to go inside it and go to the very top!!
My mind boggled! Inside? Go to the top? Wow this was even better than I had been thinking about. I did not know you could go inside the Statue, never mind go up to the very top and look out of the crown. Oh but today was only Monday and Saturday was so far away. It felt like it was a life time, Like it would never get to be Saturday. I counted the seconds that passed. But they only turned into minutes and then the minutes turned into hours and the days never changed. Sleep was impossible! The excitement of going to the Statue of Liberty was over whelming. I laid with my eyes opened trying so hard to sleep but the thought of the Statue flooded my mind. But finally, after what seemed two life times, it was Friday night and it was tomorrow morning that we were going to go to the great Statue of Liberty.
Oh please happy night, pass quickly and let morning come. I stared at the ceiling straining my ears to hear Mom and Dad getting out of bed which would mark the beginning of our odyssey. Finally the stirring sounds of Mom and Dad. Mom came into BJ and my room and told us to get up, get washed, brush our teeth and get dressed. BJ was such a twit! She was two years older so she got to do everything first. She knew how excited I was so she did everything in slow motion! Hurry, hurry, come on, let’s go, get dressed. At last we were all climbing into the car, 1946 Chrysler (would become my first car when I turned 16) and Dad pulled out of the driveway heading to Willet’s Point that was a big parking lot where we could leave the car and take the train into Times Square, Manhattan. Oh but there were all those red lights that made Dad have to stop and wait. Phssssss Phssssss trying to blow the red lights out and make them turn green so we could go. Finally parking the car and walking across the parking lot towards the Willet’s Point Train Station where we would catch the train.
Why is everyone dragging their feet? Come on, walk faster as I pulled at Mom’s hand trying to get to the train station faster. Don’t they know we are going to the Statue of Liberty? Did they forget? Finally standing on the platform of the train station but good grief!! Now we had to wait for the train to come. Look down the tracks, nothing. Look again, still nothing. Look again, Where is the train? When is it going to come? Doesn’t the train know that we are going to the Statue of Liberty this morning? Where is it? And then so far away, down the track, I saw the light of the train. It was so small, I could see it but it did not look like it was moving. Slowly it got bigger and bigger and finally was roaring into the station. We got on the train. But now it was an hour to get to Times Square, Manhattan. Dad stood with me at the front window of the train and we watched as it rumbled down the track. It was fun, watching the different stations coming and feeling the train slow to a stop and then pulled out of the station picking up speed. Clickidy Clack the sound danced in my head as the train rushed along the track towards the next station.
On and on, station after station we went and finally it was the last stop, Times Square Station. But it was not over yet. There was yet another train that we had to catch to go from Times Square down to Battery Park. This train was underground and in the dark. Nothing to see, just the sounds and count the stations. Dad, how many stops before we get there? When we get there we will be there. And after what felt like an eternity, the train pulled into Battery Park Station. Up the stairs and out into the open air. There she was!! The Statue of Liberty standing so majestically on her Island. Her Island!?! Oh I forgot that we still had to take a boat to get to Liberty Island. No! Look at the line to get the tickets for the boat. Dad got on line, Mom, BJ, Grandma and I sat on a bench and waited. Every time I turned my head to look and see how close Dad was to getting the tickets is seemed that he had not moved at all. The tickets were finally in hand and oh no!! there was another line to get on the boat. So many people and just so many could get on the boat. Had to wait your turn!!
Our boat finally docked and we boarded, took our seats, why aren’t we going? More delay, had to wait for all the other people to get on and seated. Rum, Rum, Rum the boat started and slowly pulled from the dock and headed towards Liberty Island. Twenty minutes to get to the Island and dock. But when we got off, oh my, we were so far away! We had to walk to the Statue. But we were here and I was sure that I could get everyone to run. Nope! Had to walk. As we walked the Statue of Liberty got bigger and bigger, so much bigger then I had ever dreamed of. Entered into the base building on which she stood and horrors!! Another line. It was the line we had to wait on to get into the elevator that would take us to the point where we would go up the stairs to the top of the Statue.
To many people, they all moved so slow. The elevator was not big enough, it went so slow and the line did not seem to be getting shorted and we did not seem to be getting close to where it would be our turn to get into the elevator. But we finally got to be the ones to enter the elevator. The doors closed and we went up. Just a little, then the doors opened. . . .
I stumbled out of the elevator, the elevator doors closed and the light just drained away. It was nothing like what I was thinking about. It was dark, dimly lit with incandescent bulbs hanging from the maze steel girders. I looked up into what seemed to be nowhere and saw this circular staircase spiraling up and out of site. Dad told me that I should go first as I was so excited about coming here. But this is not the here I was dreaming about!! This was like being in the belly of the beast! I took the first step at the prodding of my father and the second and found my heart beating itself out of my chest. My breath was shallow and short, my eyes could not open wide enough. Step by step my journey into hell deepened I was trembling and starting to cry for I was scared out of my wits. More steps, up and up with Dad pushing me on. I can’t!! The darkness seemed to close in on me, my legs did not want to take the next step. People behind us were yelling to move along! Tears streamed down my face, I was whimpering and grasping on so tight so I did not have to move. But the pressure was on and I had to take more steps and each step drilled the horror of this deeper and deeper into my little self.
A platform with a cross over to the stairs that were going back down. Before Dad could grab hold of me I was across the platform and on my way down. Of course everyone of my family, of whom I had complained about being to slow this morning, had to follow across the platform and come down too. Got to the bottom of the spiral stairs at the door of the elevator, I was hysterical, scared out of my mind and when Dad tried to tell me that it was OK and only a staircase going to the top of the Statue I did not want to listen and everyone got into the elevator and went back down to the base building and out into the air.
I turned and looked up at the Statue of Liberty and she was so beautiful. But inside! No, that was not the same thing and there was no way I was going to back in there. Figure we got as high up the Statue as the knee area before I chickened out and basically ran down when I found the cross over platform. Ruined the day for everyone, no one got to go to the top. Dad was angry, Mom was trying to console me, BJ was laughing and calling me a baby and I think Grandma was the only one who was really happy that I decided that I did not want to do that. I don’t think she wanted to do it either.
To this day of my life, fifty eight years later, I have never been back to the Statue of Liberty.