Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Write in the HISTORICAL genre (05/03/07)
- TITLE: Pier 84
By Angela M. Baker-Bridge
LEAVE COMMENT ON ARTICLE
SEND A PRIVATE COMMENT
ADD TO MY FAVORITES
Slowly my father backed the old Chevy out on our gravel driveway, trying not to wake the tenants. The stores in front of our apartment were dark, as was our Long Island Village Main Street. I thought that we’re visiting my uncle, not knowing he’d left Fort Dix for Korea.
The car’s rhythm rocked me back to sleep. Neither Augusts' hot sunrise nor my baby sister’s cries disturbed me. However tires rumbling over cobblestones did. Springing to life, I stood-up on the floorboard hump to discover we’re in Brooklyn.
“There’s a red trolley! Wow, the buildings are tall. Police ride horses? Daddy, are they driving too close? Mommy, they’re selling fruit and books outside!”
I smelled fresh donuts, hot pretzels, pizza. Spotting a bridge above the cars, I wanted my father to drive on top of it, but he laughed. Soon our car shook, the bridge rattled, and I heard a train. Mother explained, “It’s not for cars, it’s a railroad bridge. Cars drive down here.”
This fascinated me, but frightened my brother.
Food aromas gave way to salty fishy air. “It’s the harbor. See the Brooklyn Bridge? Look for Pier 84, Andrea Doria,” said father.
Each pier had country flags to identify its cruise lines; we looked for Italy. There were crowds of people. Suitcases, trunks, boxes were piled high in every available space. Mother worried more about finding parking then finding Pier 84. I wanted a flag.
Holding each other’s hands, we maneuvered through the crowds until we entered the huge covered pier. My parents hurried to reserve a patch of concrete close to the water. Others crowded around us. As Pier 84 swelled to overflowing, my parents agreed, “Glad we arrived early!”
We feasted on eggplant sandwiches wrapped in wax paper, fruit, and animal crackers. There was plenty for later. It was noisy, hot, smelly, confining, and boring. Trips to the bathroom were an ordeal. It wasn’t easy for small children in their Sunday clothes.
Just when time seemed to stand still, a surge of life rippled through the restless crowd after hearing the Andrea Doria’s unforgettable whistle. Small tugboats appeared. Everywhere people cheered. Loved ones were about to be reunited.
Watching the 637-foot long hull dock was mesmerizing. She was Genoa’s pride. Immigrants on board crowded the upper decks to seek out familiar faces. Colored streamers landed everywhere as her whistle blew. After several grueling weeks crossing the Atlantic, it was time to celebrate! My parents shouted, waved, and cried. Lifting us up, they told us to do the same; explaining that among those weary travelers was my grandmother.
After several delays, cheering resumed as passengers disembarked. When my grandmother crossed the ramp, I thought we’d leave. I didn’t know about CUSTOMS. Scattered throughout the long lines people argued, others cried. Officers confiscated valuables unless bribes exchanged hands. Immigrants too poor to pay witnessed their possessions stolen by dockworkers or thrown into the harbor to strike fear in others. My parents anxiously awaited my grandmother’s turn.
Hours earlier, the Andrea Doria docked in free waters; yet the immigrants remained captives.
As the majestic sunset settled over Brooklyn’s harbor, a woman wearing a strange long dress, thick-heeled shoes, and hair knotted at her neck, came toward me. She pinched my cheeks, cried, and spoke the language we used only at home. Mother whispered, “She doesn’t know English.”
How could she be a grown-up, in my family, and not know English?
Over the years, I returned to those docks to meet my grandfather, aunts, uncles, and cousins that didn’t speak English. Maybe it’s a strange place to meet family, but it’s my history, and that of millions of first generation Americans. Ellis Island and NYC’s Port Authority was a “delivery room,” bringing families together.
Throughout America’s history, immigrants, like my family, sacrificed to become Americans; learning English, taking driver’s license tests in English, becoming legal citizens, and dressing like Americans. At home, we were Italian-American.
Even St. Paul adapted* to those around him without losing himself; shouldn't we?
Can history repeat?
*1 Corinthians 9:19-23 (NIV)
19) Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.
20) To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.
21) To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law.
22) To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.
23) I do all this for the sake of the gospel that I may share in its blessings.
© May 10, 2007
The opinions expressed by authors may not necessarily reflect the opinion of FaithWriters.com.
If you died today, are you absolutely certain that you would go to heaven? You can be right now. CLICK HERE
JOIN US at FaithWriters for Free. Grow as a Writer and Spread the Gospel.