Previous Challenge Entry (EDITOR'S CHOICE)
Topic: The USA( 01/08/09)
By Joanne Sher
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"Are we almost there, Annie?" Phillip had asked her that very question at least a dozen times a day since they left Cork on December 20. And, just as she had countless times before, she tousled her youngest brother's red hair and looked into his eyes.
"Closer than we were the last time you asked, you silly boy. God willing, we will see Mama and Papa very soon."
Phillip looked up and smiled, and was quickly engaged by the gentle movement of the expansive Atlantic. <i>So easily distracted, the little scamp.</i>
"He doesn't remember Mama and Papa, does he?" Anthony's eyes looked troubled.
Annie shook her head. "I don't think he does. It's been four years, and he was only three."
Anthony put his hands on his hips. "Well, I remember them."
Annie giggled. "Of course you do. You're eleven years old. It's easier to remember what happened when you were seven or eleven than when you were three."
Anthony bit his lip. "Do you think they still remember us?"
Annie put her brother's chin in her hand. "Now Anthony Moore, whatever would make you ask a question like that? Of course they will remember us! We would still be in Ireland with Aunt and Uncle if they had forgotten us. Don't you remember the letters?"
Anthony smiled and nodded. "Of course you're right, Annie. I just wish we were there now."
"It must be soon. We've been at sea for days. Perhaps in a day or two."
"Oh, Annie! Annie! I just had a wonderful thought." Phillip hadn't spoken with such enthusiasm since he boarded this vessel.
"Do share, Phillip. I would love a wonderful thought." Anthony, along with his sister, sat on the deck beside their younger brother.
"Your birthday is in two days, isn't it? Wouldn't seeing Mama and Papa be a wonderful birthday present?"
Annie pulled her brother into an embrace. "It would, Phillip. And a wonderful start to a new year."
Their twelfth night at sea completed, Annie wriggled in her bed. They'd been told they could arrive any day. She sincerely hoped the ship's crew was right.
Something didn't feel quite right. She went through a list in her head, until she realized what was so odd.
<I>The ship wasn't moving.</I>
She rose quietly from her berth with an anticipation she hadn't felt in a week. Glancing through the peephole, she discovered that the boat was, in fact, tethered to a dock. <I>On my birthday. </I> She shook both her brothers gently.
"Huh? What?" Anthony glanced at his sister groggily.
"We're here. In America. Care to go up on deck and see?"
The boys both popped out of bed. Within two minutes, they were bursting out the stateroom door.
The sun was just rising as they appeared on deck. All three stood, mouths open, staring into New York Harbor.
"Annie. Anthony. Look!" Phillip had turned his head slightly.
Before the three of them was an enormous statue of a woman wearing a crown, holding a torch in one hand and a book in the other.
"It's Lady Liberty," Annie muttered. "Remember, Phillip? Mama wrote about her."
The children huddled together admiring the massive monument until they heard a man's gruff voice behind them.
"Get packed up, children. We'll be boarding a transfer boat and going to the new immigration center in an hour or two."
The three scuttled off to their stateroom.
"Our last boat ride for a while," Anthony declared.
He and his siblings glanced out the side, staying close to the gangplank of the decorated barge.
"Happy Birthday, Annie." Phillip smiled.
Annie glowed. "The best birthday present I'll ever receive, I'd wager."
Anthony watched as they pulled up to the dock. He grabbed his younger brother's hand and pushed his sister toward the gangplank.
They made their way off the boat first and approached the clean, huge, nearly empty building.
They trotted toward the registry desk. Annie stepped forward and placed her papers on the counter.
"Congratulations, young lady. You are the very first immigrant to be registered at the Ellis Island Immigration Station." The gentleman shook her hand, and handed her a $10 gold coin. "Welcome to the United States of America."
<I>Over 12 million immigrants passed through Ellis Island Immigration Station between 1892 and 1954 on their way to the USA. Annie Moore, age 15, of Cork County, Ireland, was the first. </I>
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