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Thoughts While Watching a Movie

December 01, 1985

" . . . The statue was built in France, cut into sections and shipped to the United States . . . " the voice droned on. As the voice cut into my thoughts, I wondered why had my supervisor insisted that I attend a movie on the Statue of Liberty.

When we first heard that the movie was mandatory, we all joked about it. After all, none of our ancestors has passed through Ellis Island. Some of the ancestors were here when this land was still a part of Mexico. Some of the ancestors came in ships to San Francisco or to the port of Los Angeles, and some ancestors like mine, were brought here screaming in the bowels of a slave ship. Yes, my Los Angeles County Medical Center payroll office was racially mixed, with only three people whose families could have memories of Ellis Island.

I sat in the darkened room as the voice in the movie droned on. I looked at the immigrant faces on the screen--some wide, some smiling and some scared--and tried to imagine how one would feel to give up family, home, and everything familiar and sail across a wide ocean, knowing full well that you might never see home again.

My thoughts went back to 1948 when my parents and I left Ohio and immigrated across America to this new land of California. How hard it was to leave family, friends, sights and sounds, and come to this bright, shiny, strange place.

And strange it was. When we left the Ellis Island of the Union Station, we settled in East Los Angeles near 1st and Mission Road. The strange language of the city assaulted my ears, as I had never before heard Spanish or seen the beautiful Mexican people.

My mind went even further back as I tried to imagine the bewilderment of being dragged from my village, being put on a ship and being taken from one continent to a new world. A world where I could never tell my mother where I was, or hear that my brother married a nice girl from a neighboring village and now had a new son. I had been disconnected in the middle of one world and then transported to another land--to be ruled by people with pale skin and see-through eyes. I was in a new world--one that I would never really belong to.

A tear rolled slowly down my cheek as the movie ended and the lights came on. So for my immigrant ancestor, I reached in my wallet and took out some money. I gave in my heart and I gave at the office.



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