Streetcar: The Arrival

We were up early to see a lady who would be standing on a small island in the harbor. According to the cruise ship’s captain, we should be passing the Statue of Liberty around 7 a.m. The cruise director suggested instead 6:45, just to be sure. We were on the seventh floor deck by 6:30. We were not alone. About 50 other passengers also thought that this would be a special moment. Some had draped one of the ship’s white robes for an extra layer of warmth. All stood at the rails with their cameras in focus.

New York harbor, even in the wee hours of a quiet Sunday morning, is dazzling with images; some real, others of the mind. The latter including early steam ships chugging in after days crossing the Atlantic. What must the immigrants have thought as they too waited see the statue? Or how about the boatloads of soldiers returning from the great wars, some carried on stretchers; all relieved that they had survived. The Staten Island ferry passed nearby, its front deck evoking images of “Funny Girl” Barbra Streisand pleading in song for life not to rain on her parade.

To the left (ok, the portside) was New Jersey, its notables including   Frank Sinatra, Jersey boys, The Sopranos and the spot where Aaron Burr shot Alexander Hamilton in a duel. To the starboard is the jagged skyline of New York City, in which stand Broadway, Yankee Stadium, Central Park and, at Trinity Church, the spot where Alexander Hamilton is buried. (Robert Fulton, the inventor of the steamboat, is buried in the plot next to Hamilton’s but gets little attention these days since Hamilton, the legacy, became a Broadway star.)

“There she is!” one of the passengers shouted. Yes, there it was as the ship negotiated a bend. With her outstretched right arm carrying a golden flame atop a torch, “Lady Liberty,” as her closest friends call her, was already busy greeting arrivals.

I fully expected to marvel at this monument, and I did, until I happened to glance toward the starboard at the continuing pageantry of the Manhattan skyline. Standing out was a sleek and stylish building climbing to 104 stories making it the tallest building in the hemisphere. No building, perhaps none in the world, triggers as much emotion and thought as does the glowing new One World Trade Center, boldly making a statement by its presence.

Our ship docked at a spot not far from where the Titanic, had it ever arrived, would have berthed. The harbor was getting busy with the traffic from boats of all sorts, each greeted by the lady. Another day at the nation’s front door was underway.

To have been standing at a spot in the harbor flanked by the statue and the tower, both in their own ways symbols of hope and renewal, was a sensory overload, each demanding visual attention, but the tower won out. In its own way, it too carries a torch.


 

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