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Saw Bubby's name at Ellis Island

BY Elisa_Shevitz on November 10, 2017
5 | 10 Favorites
Most of the relatives on my mom’s side arrived at Baltimore Inner Harbor, so I was surprised when my dad told me his mother had arrived in America through Ellis Island. My dad had wanted to see the new Ellis Island museum, but there never seemed to be time during their visits to see me in New York City, where I had lived my whole adult life.

Usually when my parents spent the weekend with me it was for a specific reason, and we’d run around like crazy: an antiques show at the pier, a birthday celebration, the theater. One summer week- end, when they were in town and we finally had nothing planned, we decided to take a ferry to Ellis Island—a place that somehow none of us had ever been to before. It was an exquisitely beautiful day, and for some reason I had my camera with me (before iPhones) and took lots of shots of us laughing and posing with the Statue of Liberty in the background.

While ostensibly the point of our voyage was to take a ferry ride, it was the museum itself which proved to be memorable. Seeing my bubby’s name, Jeanne Flitman, even just in a searchable archive, gave me goose bumps. My dad and I proudly stood where she may have stood as a little girl with her mother (Esther, who I’m named after), having been sent for by her father, who had come ahead to run a hotel in Baltimore.

The day we were there was on a weekend in August 2001. Later, looking through my photos the next month, I saw the twin towers of the World Trade Center framing many of the shots. I couldn’t believe I had captured those images so vividly. The contrast was chilling: stories of new beginnings filling the archives of the museum juxtaposed against the tragic ending that would take the lives of so many.

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