The Stories of Ellis Island and the Hard Hat Tour

Artist installation by French artist JR at Ellis Island Quarantine Hospital/ Loscotoff 2022

We said goodbye to the Statue of Liberty, boarded the ferry on the south side of the island, and set sail for our next destination; Ellis Island. Ellis Island has always captivated my attention, has always drawn me into the stories of the lives that stepped foot there. This spot of history had become essential if I were ever to go to New York City. Finally, I would see this place that had only been pictures in my head.

None of my own family, that I know of, came through Ellis Island. Much of my family came to the United States in the years before Ellis Island, dating back to some of the earliest settlers. Others, my Russian Molokan family, came at the turn of the century, escaping political prosecution for their religious beliefs through Galveston, Texas.

Our boat docked between two sections of the island. To the north was the Registry Room which is open to the general public. To the south was the quarantine hospital, a building in decay and only open as an additional tour, the fee going to Save Ellis Island, a non-profit created to restore the 29 unused buildings on Ellis Island.

A photo of Ellis Island from the ferry/ Loscotoff 2022
Ellis Island with New Jersey skyline in the distance.

Hard Hat Tour

We donned our hardhats and traveled down the long brick hallways, moving from one island to the next. The red brick was stained white; damage from the waterline of Hurricane Sandy in 2012. This slowed and reversed some of the restorative work being done on this part of Ellis Island.

While the hospital on the main island could care for 275 in 1910, contagious diseases often needed to be cared for in specific quarantine hospitals on the mainland. This created a need for a quarantine hospital on Ellis Island itself.

Besides the main island with the registry room and standard hospital, two other islands were created with only a narrow strip of land connecting them. (Today, the two southernmost islands stand as one, the water between them now turned into an empty park using the dirt from the development of the New York Subway system. This area is off-limits to tourists.)

As we walked down the hallways, you could imagine what this space had once been, with doctors and nurses in their uniforms traveling back and forth. The quarantine took children from their families and loved ones from their partners. Children in the quarantine hospital were required to be cared for with money sent from families allowed to go ashore or through help from charity aid societies.

Doctors in the hospital, installation art by French artist, JR, at Quarantine Hospital, Ellis Island/ Loscotoff 2022
Installation by French artist JR, historic doctors in surgery.

I imagine my grief at being allowed passage after a long journey, escaping some horror in my homeland, only to have my child taken from me because of a suspected illness. My child feeling like she had been abandoned or forgotten in the twisting hallways. I imagine trying to start a new life and make enough money to pay for my child to stay at the hospital until she is better so that she will not be returned to our homeland.

Down the hallway, we come to a large room, the ceiling has fallen from time and weather. There are leaves piled on the floor. We turn to the right and find ourselves in an ancient laundry. The shadows of memories stand in the window, the installation of French artist, JR. These pieces will peak at us through our entire tour, designed to decay with the building.

Electric boxes for Ellis Island Quarantine Hospital/ Loscotoff 2022
Electricity

The electric box stands open on the wall, large switches in the position, their boxes filled with leaves. There is no power currently on this part of the island or none that I can see. Our tour walks in the sunlight which travels through broken windows.

The enormous industrial washing machines and dryers stand open in the middle of the room. The ground is dusty, the paint has peeled and been scraped. I imagine the workers and the constant washing of garments, especially the garments of those with contagious diseases. My mind sees orderlies rushing around, keeping constantly busy.

We step from the laundry, passing what was once the ward for those thought to be mentally unfit. We pass the outdoor recreation pavilion, a narrow covered brick space that would have once sat on the bay. In many illnesses of the time, it was believed that fresh air was one of the best medicines for a patient. This covered pavilion would have allowed patients to sit or lay and look at the water. Fresh air was also used in the hospital, even when snow fell and the wind was ice.

Moving past the outdoor recreation pavilion, we move to the southernmost island. The dormitory buildings here do not line up, they stretch off a central corridor and no doors are ever across from each other.

It was believed at the time that viruses in the air could not turn corners. Therefore, quarantine dormitories could not face other quarantine dormitories. The ceilings did not have sharp corners in these rooms because it was believed that viruses would fill those corners and get stuck there, never moving out through the open windows.

Illnesses of the same type were kept together. Children with measles were kept in a single room with other children with measles. Their windows were kept open, even at the coldest time of year, so that the virus would not be concentrated in the room. It was believed that viruses could not be blown overwater, this is why the island was separated by the bay with only a connecting pathway. Radiators sat against the wall to keep the rooms warm against the chill of the weather.

The children of the measles ward in art installation by French artist JR/ Loscotoff 2022
Children wait and hope to get well, they hope to not be sent back to their country of origin.

The art of JR follows us and allows us to see the ghosts of this place as they dream of a new life. They are faded but still present. Beyond the images, you feel the presence of what was once here, the sadness and the hope.

A family of immigrants moves through the room in JR's installation at Ellis Island/ Loscotoff 2022
A family of immigrants moves through the hospital. Installation by French artist, JR.

A beautiful, sad, haunting look at the quarantine hospital is seen in a film also created by JR and stars Robert Deniro, called “Ellis”. You can watch it on YouTube here, or I have included the link below. It allows you to understand what it is to walk these halls, to feel the history of the hospital.

In the Tuberculosis ward, patients were not kept together as they were in other spaces. The rooms were not across from each other, but alternating down a hallway. Each patient had their own room with two sinks; the first to wash and the second to spit.

Tuberculosis spit is highly contagious and these sinks had their own plumbing which was flushed to the incinerator. Their windows were not left open the way other rooms were but rather vented in a way that the patient could not escape.

One of the saddest stories was in the room looking out over the Statue of Liberty. While some believed the statue gave them hope for a new life, others saw her standing with her back turned on them. It was a daily reminder that the United States had turned its back on them and their dreams of taking a step in their new land.

Through the quarantine windows stands the Statue of Liberty.  Does she remind the sick of why they came of that she has turned her back on them. / Loscotoff 2022
Our the windows of quarantine stood the Statue of Liberty. It is said that some believed that they were given this view to remind them of why they left their country, to give them hope of healing and a new life. Others say it symbolized Liberty turning her back on the sick and poor.

The installation in the director’s house at the far end of the island somehow touched me the most. “This Place Matters.”

The place matters, it truly does.

This is the foundation that our country was built upon. Immigrants placed all of their hope, all of their dreams within their chosen country. Many were turned away, families were broken, but more were allowed their new home.

This woman reminds me of my great-grandma when she came from Russia. They have a similar look to them, and the lines on their face tell a similar story.

The hospital was one of the best in the country and one of the best in the world. Patients were treated well as per the standards of the time and within the fight of anti-immigration sentiment and law.

No contagious spread of disease was ever traced back to a patient who left the hospital, and most patients did eventually leave the hospital and start the new life they dreamed of.

The Place Matters banner on a door in the Director's House at the Quarantine Hospital at Ellis Island/ Loscotoff 2022

The History of Ellis Island

Originally, Ellis island was called Kioshk, or Gull Island, by the Mohican Native American Tribe living along the shore of the Hudson River. The island itself was a small sandbank lined with waterbirds. In the 1630s, a Dutchman named Michael Paauw purchased the island from the native people and renamed it Oyster Island for the shellfish beds surrounding it.

Through the turmoil of history and as the settler’s claim to this land was questioned and fought over, the ownership of the island itself continued to change hands. At one point it was called Gibbet Island in reference to the public execution of pirates hung there. In the 1780s Samuel Ellis came to own the island giving it the name it carries today, using it for recreation. Ellis sold it once again in 1988 for $3,200 to John A. Berry, the last private owner.

In 1808, the United States War Department bought the island for $10,000. There was fear due to rising tensions of the Napoleonic War and so the government purchased the island to become a fort, Fort Gibson, and be used as a line of defense to protect what is now Lower Manhattan. During the War of 1812, the British blocked the harbor but never attacked any of New York’s fortifications. Fort Gibson itself was used to jail prisoners of war.

The War of 1812 did not officially end until February of 1815 and Ellis Island was left deserted. In the 1830s, the island was used for storage of gunpowder and became a munitions dump during the Civil War. Its close proximity to both New York and New Jersey created fear through the possibility of the munitions being attacked or hit by lightning and causing devastation to the communities around it. In 1890, Congress passed legislation to clear the island of munitions and passed a bill for $75,000 to improve the island for purposes of immigration.

In 1847, the Irish Potato Famine sent approximately one million Irishmen to look for new homes. (The famine itself is estimated to have killed another million, the population of Ireland declined by approximately 25%.) Ellis Island was suggested as a place for immigrants to recover from their journey across the Atlantic, but New York decided instead to renovate Castle Clinton on the southern tip of Manhattan.

Immigration sign of the times, Ellis Island/ Loscotoff 2022
Many wanted to restrict immigration and wanted to limit who was allowed into the country.

Immigration, as it seems is always the case, became a conflicting issue for the people of the United States. On one hand, immigrants brought skilled workers, strong bodies, and an economy that could help strengthen the country. On the other hand, some saw immigrants and the hungry poor with contagious diseases that would strain the government through social support.

This became the foundation of immigration; who would be admitted and who would be denied.

Immigration Restrictions and when they were enacted/ Loscotoff 2022
Over the years, the rules became stricter and stricter.

In 1882, two laws were passed. The first banned all Chinese and denied citizenship to any Chinese already established in the country. The second law denied entry to “any convict, lunatic, idiot, or any person unable to care of himself or herself without becoming a public charge.”

In 1891, the law banned paupers, prostitutes, polygamists, or any person with a dangerous contagious disease.

In 1885, the Alien Contract Labor Law was passed. This law was meant to protect American workers from companies importing cheaper labor while protecting immigrants from manipulation. The law led to corruption within Castle Garden and embarrassment to the Federal government as stories of abuse were the headlines of the newspapers of the day.

Anti-immigration political cartoons, propaganda/ Loscotoff 2022
“The Fool Pied Piper”, Anti-immigration propaganda.
Anti-immigration politcal cartoons, propaganda/ Loscotoff 2022
“The High Tide of Immigration”, Anti-immigration propaganda

In 1890, the contract with the New York State immigration commissioners was terminated and immigration inspection was given to the federal government. An island was sought in an effort to keep separate anyone needing to be detained.

Governors island was chosen first, but the War Department refused. Chosen next was Bedloe Island where the Statue of Liberty stands. There was an ironic outcry; the public did not want “Europe’s garbage” to be put at Liberty’s feet.

Finally, Ellis Island was selected, despite the fact that the water was too shallow for boats to dock there.

Judge, a weekly satirical magazine published in the US from 1881-1947/ Loscotoff 2022
The building of a nation, made of immigrants. Judge, a weekly satirical magazine published 1881-1947

Ellis Island was doubled in size using ship ballast (heavy material placed low in a ship to maintain balance) as landfill; a deep ferry landing was built.

On January 1, 1892, Annie Moore, 15 years old from Ireland, was the first immigrant to enter Ellis Island. The building was designed to process 10,000 immigrants a day.

The depot quickly fell into disrepair and in 1897, a fire burned it to the ground.

Ellis Island Registry and main hospital/ Loscotoff 2022

In planning for a rebuild, a second island, attached by only a narrow connection, was planned. It would be built from landfill from the new subway system being developed in New York City. The main building was designed to process 500,000 immigrants a year, but immigration had slowed and only approximately 250,000 souls were arriving through New York annually.

The main (and current building) opened on December 17, 1900. In 1901, 389,000 immigrants came through the registration room. In 1907, immigration peaked when over one million came through. Between the 1840s and 1924 (when Congress instituted “ethnic quotas) approximately 34 million immigrants landed in the United States through Ellis Island.

Ships filled with immigrants sailed into the Upper Bay and were boarded around The Narrows. First-class (and sometimes second-class passengers) were inspected. It was generally assumed that if they could afford the ticket, they would not be a burden on society and were considered less likely to be carrying a dangerous and contagious disease.

These passengers did not have to go through Ellis Island immigration but disembarked before the rest of the passengers were taken via ferry to be inspected.

Third-class passengers were called “steerage”. The trip was often crowded and unsanitary in the bowels of the steamships; disease was common. These passengers were moved onto open-air ferries without toilets or medical care. Death by exposure was not uncommon. It is thought that of children arriving with measles, 30% died due to exposure on the ferries.

We like to think of a ferry as a quick trip across the bay, however, the bay was often filled with steamships, with thousands of passengers waiting to disembark. They were often left in steerage for days, waiting for their turn. The ferries then lined up, waiting to disembark at Ellis Island.

When the time came that an immigrant stepped foot on the island, carrying everything they owned, a number was pinned to their clothing identifying their position on the ship manifest. This allowed inspectors to know where they came from and whether they had a “right” to be there.

An average of 2% were denied entry. While that number may seem small, it is 2 of every 100 people, thousands over the course of a month.

The lines stretched from the docks and around the buildings, through baggage rooms, upstairs, and into the 2-story Registry Room. They were met by doctors who looked for any little sign of disability, even before the immigrant knew they were being watched. Children were taken from their mother’s arms and made to walk to be sure that they were able; they were asked their names to be sure that they could hear and speak.

Art Installation by French artist, JR. Immigrants climb the stairs at Ellis Island/ Loscotoff 2022
Installation of Immigrants ascending the stairs by French artist, JR.

Doctors checked for 60 different symptoms which would point to disease or disability. Two that I had never heard of, which were common at the time, were favus (a fungal infection of the scalp and nails) and trachoma (an eye infection from a strain of Chlamydia, which could lead to blindness and death in people living in the same home.)

Doctors checked every immigrant for trachoma by using a buttonhook or hairpin to flip back the eyelid looking for inflammation of the inner lid. These doctors were called “buttonhook men” and immigrants describe it as the most painful part of their inspection.

Immigrants with signs of illness or disability were marked with chalk on their clothing. They were taken to the Ellis Island main hospital for observation and care. More complicated illnesses were taken to the quartine hospital. When they recovered, they could continue to their legal inspection.

If they were incurable or disabled, they were returned to their country of origin at the expense of the steamship that brought them over. This put the responsibility on the ships to filter out who they brought to New York.

Beyond the chalk mark, people were marked with specific letters for specific conditions. Pregnant women were not allowed to leave Ellis Island until they had given birth; they were marked with Pg. (Over 350 babies were born on Ellis Island and there was some debate if these children were born American citizens.)

If an immigrant was thought to be feeble-minded (and approximately 9 out of every 100 immigrants were pulled out and detained) they were marked with an X and were required to go through further testing. These tests varied and included things like putting together a puzzle or counting. The tests varied as different cultural backgrounds did not work for each test.

After the medical inspection, immigrants wound in lines through the main part of the registry room for legal inspection. It took, on average, 5 hours to pass through the inspection process.

Inspectors stood with translators who worked to figure out that immigrant’s language and dialect. They verified information from the ship manifest, names were recorded with an attempt at spelling it correctly. (However, countries that do not use the Latin lettering system of English took some interpretation. My Russian last name would be translated from the Cyrillic alphabet which is why any spelling of Loscotoff is most likely related to my family in some way; Loscutoff, Loskotoff, Luskatov.) Inspectors asked questions that would identify where they would fit into this new society.

In 1917, immigrants began to be required to pass a literacy test in their own language, with many being required to read the Bible in their own language.

If an immigrant could not prove their right to be here, they were forced to attend a hearing. They were not allowed a lawyer as they were not legally entitled to come to the United States. They were, however, allowed to have friends and family speak on their behalf. Most were approved, those who were not could appeal to Washing DC and could hire a lawyer at this point.

Shoes of immigrant children, Ellis Island/ Loscotoff 2022

Women and children without guardians were not allowed to leave Ellis Island until a letter or ticket from a relative assured the government that they had a place to go. Single women were not allowed to leave with a man who was unrelated.

Immigration brides were common, with letters and pictures being sent across the sea. Men would crowd barges to meet bride ships, with brides holding up pictures to match to their fiances. Many of these couple married on Ellis Island in order to be allowed to leave. Women unhappy or who felt fooled by their choice were required to stay on the island until they could find a new husband or a woman’s charity came to their aid.

Immigrants sewing the American Flag/ Loscotoff 2022
Immigrant Women sewing the American Flag

After passing the medical and legal inspection, immigrants moved down from the registry room to the “Stairs of Separation” which led to their new lives; railroad ticket offices, meeting points with waiting families, and ferries to take them off the island.

Registry Room from Upstairs at Ellis Island/ Loscotoff 2022
Registry Room from the second story.

Due to the increase in laws against immigration, Ellis island came to a rapid decline in the early 1920s. After World War I, embassies around the world were established which took care of immigration paperwork and medical inspections. After 1924, Ellis island was used for war refugees and those having trouble with immigration paperwork. During WWII, it became a detention center and was managed by the United States Coast Guard until 1954.

Unfortunately, all hospital records on the island were destroyed while under the care of the Coast Guard.

Leaving Ellis Island heading to Lower Manhattan

We returned to New York City, now imagining what it would be to have sat on a boat in the bay, seeing this new world for the first time and not knowing if you would ever step foot there; not knowing if your family would be torn apart. As we boarded the subway, I imagined all this earth forming the foundation of three small islands in the bay, and how this dirt supported the immigration of America.

Leaving the subway in New York/ Loscotoff 2022
Panel from “Alice: the Way Out” by Liliana Porter, 50th street subway station.

YouTube Videos about Ellis Island

“Ellis” – a short film by French artist, JR

Forgotten Ellis Island – a short film by Laurie Conway, supported by Save Ellis Island

Our East Coast Journey

New Jersey – Day One

4th of July in Beach Haven, New Jersey

New Jersey Sunrise

Jaws and the New Jersey Maritime Museum

New York City and the 9/11 Memorial

The Statue of Liberty

Ellis Island Hard Hat Tour

A special thanks to the Ellis Island Official Tour book, “Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration” for much of the factual information about the island

Save Ellis Island

Save Ellis Island Current Exhibit – Unframed Ellis Island by JR

Jewish History Museum Acquires Sculpture Models of Ellis Island’s Powerful Monument to Immigrants

Wall of Honor – Celebrating Dreams of a New Life

Trachoma

Favus

Post-Peak Immigration Years at Ellis Island

Alice & Her Wonderful Pals Subway Art by Liliana Porter

New York City and the 9/11 Memorial

A flower for your birthday, 9/11 memorial / Loscotoff 2022

One last night in New Jersey as the sun set and the moon appeared through a rainbow of clouds. In the morning we were headed to New York City, two days and a single night, and two very important places that I have always felt drawn to visit; the 9/11 Memorial Museum and Ellis Island.

There is an ease to traveling on the East Coast. We left Beach Haven and made our way to the mainland, driving north to Toms River. You can catch a bus into New York City for approximately $25 each way. We headed up the Garden State Parkway, past the Newark Airport, through the deep Holland Tunnel (your ears adjusting to the sudden change in pressure) and suddenly you find yourself surrounded by enormous buildings and no sense of direction.

Stepping off the bus at Port Authority and seeing Saks Fifth Ave/ Loscotoff 2022
Saks Fifth Ave

We were dropped off at Port Authority. Stepping out, I found myself overwhelmed by the immensity of it all. New York feels big, it feels alive and ever-moving. There is a feeling of old and new as skyscrapers stretch tall next to historic cathedrals. There is also a sense of how small we are.

I recently spoke to a friend and she described her first visit to New York City filling her with possibility; everything she could be. This, my first visit to New York City, made me feel lost.

I generally have a wonderful sense of direction; perhaps it is in my connection to the moonrise and the sunset. I know where I stand based on the turning of the earth. In New York, I felt like an ant among these giants with no connection to the earth. The buildings blocked my view of the horizon.

Given time, I imagine I would learn landmarks and discover where I fit on this island, but these days, I felt confused and overwhelmed. So many moments of certainty that I was heading in the right direction, only to discover I was going the wrong way.

We dropped our bags off at our hotel (more on that next week) and Pat, our New Jersey hostess began to show us around. She would be sending us on our way in a few hours, but for the time being, she gave us a grasp on the city.

So many landmarks are pressed together on this small strip of land; Times Square is around the corner from Rockefeller Center which is across the street from St. Patrick’s Cathedral which is around the corner from the Rockettes and a few streets from Broadway and all of this is down the street from Central Park.

Before this trip, I didn’t understand that it was all so close.

Outside of St. Patrick's Cathedral/ Loscotoff 2022
St. Andrew’s Cathedral

We found our way to St. Andrew’s Cathedral, bordered by 5th and Madison Ave. The cathedral began being built in 1858 and construction stopped during the Civil War, finally being completed in 1879. It is the largest Gothic Revival Catholic Cathedral in North America.

When you see architecture like this amongst the modern buildings, you are reminded of the antiquity of New York’s history. Having had the opportunity to travel through parts of Europe, New York is unique in its blend of old and new, neighbors within history.

Europe has a tendency to keep the old with the old. New York seems to keep a bit of the old and then grow bigger on what no longer serves them.

St. Andrew’s is beautiful with its sculpture and mosaic and stained glass windows. Walking inside, you could imagine that you are no longer within the United States, but rather wandering through a European city. It is a surprise to your senses when you step outside into the shadows of glass and steel.

Pat needed a quick visit to the Apple Store before her own journey to Scotland (which you can read about through her journals here). Never before have I seen such a beautiful Apple Store. Having left the Gothic history of St. Andrew’s, here we enter the modern world of technology today.

You enter through a large glass facade that reflects the buildings around it. You are met by security before spiraling down two stories through a twisting staircase lined with plants and mirrors. The large underground room spreads out, decorated with living trees and open space and a multitude of tables and products and assistants.

It feels futuristic while familiar.

After Apple, we walked across the street with Pat and into Central Park. Central Park deserves more than the tiny bit of time we were able to give it. We boarded a horse-drawn carriage and took a short 20-min ride through the southern tip of the park.

Central Park is lined by the silhouette of the city but allows the world to stretch out, allowing you a moment of grounding. Couples cuddle at the base of trees, children run on the paths, there are bicyclists, and there is music from street performers all as background to the clomping feet of the carriage horse.

We made our way from Central Park and said our goodbyes as Pat headed back to New Jersey and we made our way via New York Subway to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.

I remember not understanding the underground in Paris as a high school student on a choir trip. I sat and cried in confusion. Thankfully, New York subways are fairly clear. Technology has made it easier, plugging your destination in through your map, your phone will walk you to the nearest entrance and tell you your approximate wait time. Not only that, your phone will pay the entrance fee. You no longer need to buy tickets unless you prefer the way the paper feels between your fingers.

We exited the Subway and turned to see the enormous fountain memorials dedicated to those lost on 9/11, a memorial to the world that changed on that day.

I think we all remember where we were when the Twin Towers fell. It has been said that 9/11 was our generation’s Pearl Harbor.

I woke up that morning; my alarm was a morning comedy talk show. The first tower had been hit 14 minutes earlier. Coming from sleep, I was trying to understand if this was a story they were telling. I couldn’t make clear sense of what they were doing. And then, 3 minutes after I awoke, the second airplane hit. Suddenly, everything within me sunk.

Memorial at the South Tower

I had been staying at my parent’s at the time and I ran in to turn on their TV. They could see that something terrible had happened by the look on my face.

We stood, watching the screen, paralyzed, as Flight 77 hit the pentagon.

And then, an hour later, the South Tower fell.

My heart felt like it shattered as I understood all the lives that were lost at that moment. All the families torn apart at that moment. The weight of our world changed in a few short hours on the morning of September 11th.

Three minutes later, Flight 93 crashed into a Pennsylvania field.

How many more planes were in the air? How many more people had to die on this day? How many more families would be ravaged in these moments?

26 minutes later, the North Tower collapsed.

I was a second-grade teacher. Our school district did not shut down. How do you continue to act like this is just another day when you are so overcome with grief for what has just happened? How do you continue to teach when your students are afraid to be away from their parents?

We kept the television off in the classroom, but internally, all I wanted to do was watch and understand and be updated. I wanted to cry and scream and grieve for the people killed on that day.

And so, if we did anything in New York, the 9/11 Memorial was a place I needed to visit.

In the footprints of both buildings are fountains lined with the names of those who died. The water tumbles and sparkles like the lives that were lost. The water comes together and then falls again into a dark shadow that we can’t see.

As you move into the museum, you move down, deeper and deeper, below the heavy fortress of the water memorials. Underneath these huge fountain footprints are the stories of the people who lived and died on 9/11.

Something we often don’t hear about at the site of the World Trade Center is “The Bathtub”. The Bathtub is a 7-story dam that covers 9 blocks and was built down to bedrock to allow the Twin Towers to be built, protecting them from the Hudson River. The earth removed from this space was used to build Battery Park on the southern tip of Manhatten.

When the Twin Towers were hit and then collapsed, there was a chance that these slurry walls would break and flood Lower Manhatten, filling the Path Tunnels which carry trains under the Hudson river between New York and New Jersey. Thousands more would have died.

Engineers and firefighters worked tirelessly, pumping water and securing these walls after the Twin Towers fell and during rescue operations. The original walls stood.

The Survivor’s Staircase was the last visual structure above ground after the Twin Towers fell. It served as an evacuation point for hundreds of evacuees from 5 World Trade Center.

Ladder 3 at the 9/11 Memorial / Loscotoff 2022
Ladder Company 3

Ladder Company 3 was in the middle of a shift change when the first tower was struck. Both tours of men went together to the North Tower and made their way up, helping as many as possible. They were on the 35th floor when the North Tower Collapsed, leaving Ladder Company 3 with some of the most losses of any New York Fire department. Their firetruck was crushed as the tower fell.

On May 30th, 2002, the last column was removed from the site of the World Trade Centers. It was anchored in bedrock and supported the South Tower’s inner core. It was located near the south tower lobby, where first responders had been last reported. It was physically marked through recovery efforts as a landmark in searching for survivors and became a landmark of loss after the remains of FDNY Squad 41 were found there.

The Twin Towers and the Bathtub were built deep into the bedrock. The museum allows you to see these structures as you make your way into the far corners of the memorial.

Two twisted beams of steel hang in the 9/11 Memorial Museum and they are identified in the photo after the plane hit the North Tower. The destruction becomes tangible when you see and understand the power that can dissolve steel into dust.

Image of where the metal came from 9/11 memorial / Loscotoff 2022
The Angel of Peace at the 9/11 memorial, the base is made of melted weapons/ Loscotoff 2022
The Angle of Peace by Lin Evola – the base is made from melted weapons.
A mosaic wall in the 9/11 memorial, a quote by Virgil/ Loscotoff 2022
A flower for your birthday, 9/11 memorial / Loscotoff 2022
A rose for your birthday. Every morning, 9/11 memorial staff put out white roses to honor the birthdays of those killed in the attacks on the twin towers.

Standing to the south of the 9/11 memorial is the One World Trade Center, the main building within the rebuilt complexes around the 9/11 museum. It stands as the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere and the seventh tallest building in the world. It stands at 1,776 feet tall, which was deliberate in connecting to when the Declaration of Independence was signed.

What captivated me about the One World Trade Center is how it was created to reflect the sky around it. While ever present in its height, it also disappears into the blue, allowing the clouds to echo on its surface.

The new World Trade Center - One World Trade Center/ Loscotoff 2022
The new world trade center – One World Trade Center – mimics the sky around it.

I leave you here today, dear readers. Thank you for coming on this journey with me. We stayed in the museum until it closed and then continued our walk south. That will be a story for next week.

Links

9/11 Memorial and Museum Exhibitions

“The Bathtub” – Foundation of the World Trade Centers

Story Behind the Last Column’s First Markings

Interpreting the Last Column: The Stories Behind the Markings

The Angel of Peace

Timeline of the 9/11 Attacks – The Miller Center

Survivor’s Staircase, 9/11

The Bathtub. Lower Manhattan’s Wall Against Water – Forbes

White Rose Signifies Remembrance of 9/11 Victim’s Birthdays

Pilgrimage: Inside New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral

St Patrick’s Cathedral, NY, NY – official site

Pat Trotter Photography – Scottish Journals

Our East Coast Journey 2022

How this trip began – New Jersey Day One

4th of July in Beach Haven, New Jersey

New Jersey Sunrise

Jaws and the New Jersey Maritime Museum

Sign up for my weekly newsletter here

Jaws and the New Jersey Maritime Museum

Stained Glass window of a sailor, grandsson, and dog, looking out over the ocean, New Jersey Maritime Museum/ Loscotoff 2022

Looking out over the bay as the sun sets, a little house on the dock, I could envision the scene from Jaws where Richard Dryfus begins to load his scientific tools onboard a small fishing vessel; the grizzly old captain watches with part intrigue and part mocking humor. The novel Jaws (and subsequent movie) are inspired by this stretch of sand in the Atlantic and a series of attacks that began here in 1916.

Sunset on the West Side of Beach Haven, NJ.
A reminder of Jaws, written by the NJ native, Peter Benchley / Loscotoff 2022

On July 1, 1916, in Beach Haven, NJ, Charles Vansant, 28 from Philadelphia, decided to go for a swim. He took his dog down to the shoreline and entered the water. He didn’t go deep. When he began to yell, others thought he was simply calling to his dog. The reality was a shark was biting his legs. He was rescued by a lifeguard and a bystander and carried to his hotel, the Engleside. He bled to death on the hotel manager’s desk.

While this was the only death in Beach Haven, there were 3 more deaths–Charles Bruder (27), Lester Stillwell (11), Stanely Fischer (24)– and one traumatic injury–Joseph Dunn (12) lost his leg–before the shark, an 8.5 foot Great White (now thought to be a misidentified Bull Shark) was caught and killed. The shark’s stomach carried human remains. Its story still strikes fear into beachgoers. ( You can read the whole story here, or below in my links.)

Beach Haven is also home to the New Jersey Maritime Museum which carries the “most extensive collection of maritime history and artifacts in New Jersey” while working to preserve New Jersey’s long maritime history. One display is a tribute honoring the story of these shark attacks.

One of my favorite aspects of the New Jersey Maritime Museum is their collection of portholes. They are displayed throughout the museum, filling every nook and cranny.

There is something poetically beautiful, something magical, about these portholes. Perhaps it is their history, perhaps it is what they represent. These circular pieces of glass, supported by a metal (often brass) frame, intended to keep the sea out and the light in, shattered and broken, having lived parts of their lives at the bottom of the sea.

Each appears as an art piece, honoring a moment of history. Eyes looked out these windows and, at some point, water rushed in.

The portal to my soul is a broken glass, fractured into memories I can’t shake. Flooding in through the beautiful prism torturing me with the looming feelings of my inevitable demise.

Katie Cozad

Within the New Jersey Maritime Museum is also a room dedicated to the SS Morro Castle. In 1928, the United States Congress passed the Merchant Marine act which provided construction funds to be given to shipping companies, allowing them to replace old ships with new ones.

The New York and Cuba Mail Steam Ship took the opportunity to build twin ships; the SS Morro Castle and the SS Orient. The company had been transporting mail, cargo, and passengers between New York and Cuba since 1841 (also called the Ward Line).

The SS Morro Castle set sail on August 23, 1930, and despite a worsening depression, maintained steady business. Their tickets were affordable, their clientele treated to luxury, and, in a time of prohibition, they were not limited by US alcohol laws.

On September 5, 1934, the SS Morro Castle left Havanna and began its 58-hour journey up the East Coast. Through the afternoon of the 6th and into the 7th, the clouds thickened and the winds began to blow. That evening, the captain, Robert Rennison Willmott, ate in his room and then died of a heart attack. Command passed to Chief Officer William Warms. Overnight, the winds became stronger as the ship continued up the coastline.

Artifacts from the SS Morro Castle, 1934, New Jersey Maritime Museum/ Loscotoff 2022
Artifacts from the SS Morro Castle which burned off the Coast of New Jersey, 1934.

At around 2:50 am, the ship was traveling off the coast of Beach Haven, NJ when a fire was discovered in a storage closet of the 1st class writing room. To this day, the start of the fire is unknown–theories of arson and insurance fraud persist. Within 20 minutes, the fire burned through the electrical cables and the ship lost power. Within 30 minutes, the ship was engulfed. A single SOS was sent before the ship lost power.

The fire separated the passengers from the crew, with the passengers moving to the back of the boat and the crew moving to the front. The deck was hot to the touch. The smoke was unbreathable. For many passengers, the decision became to jump or to burn. And so, they jumped.

SS Morro Castle Burning, 1934 (Public Domain Image)

The waves from the storm were high and unyielding. The water was deathly cold. Those who jumped with life rings were often knocked out as the rings hit their neck or head upon entering the water, causing them to drown or die of a broken neck.

Six lifeboats were launched with a capacity for 408 souls. Only 85 people, mostly crew, were saved via lifeboat. The ocean swells made seeing bodies difficult amongst the waves and rescue near impossible.

The single SOS signal lead to a slow recovery. People lined the New Jersey shoreline and collected bodies, helped with the wounded, and cared for those brought in by rescue boat. 135 out of the 549 on board were killed, as well as an unknown number of castaways (mostly children) escaping violence on the streets of Havana.

The ship was towed and beached on the shore of Asbury Park boardwalk, where the burned-out hull became a tourist attraction. It was later towed to Gravesend Bay and eventually scrapped in Baltimore on March 29, 1935.

More Interesting Maritime Artifacts

While each of these images deserves time and attention, I don’t know all of their stories. These are a few things that really stood out to me at the New Jersey Maritime Museum; old flags to models, art, old fire extinguishers (glass balls filled with repellant), displays, ship funnels, and enormous painted lobster claws.

I hope you enjoy these photos and they allow your imagination to soar.

Decorative lobster claws, New Jersey Maritime Museum/ Loscotoff 2022
Decorative Lobster Claws

Links

New Jersey Maritime Museum

New Jersey Maritime Museum Displays by Room

The Mystery of the SS Morro Castle – Ripley’s (great photos!)

SS Morro Castle – 1930-1934

July Attacks of the New Jersey Jaws – 1916

YouTube video of the Morro Castle – salvage film from 1934

What is a Ship’s Deadeye

New Jersey Ship Wreck Map

Map of New Jersey Ship Wrecks, link above to zoom in

About Me

My Creative Muse and the Afterlife

Sign up for my Friday Newsletters with Updates from the Week

Short Stories

Ship model/ Loscotoff 2022

New Jersey Sunrise

New Jersey Sunrise turning the sky a turbulent red/ Loscotoff 2022

It was the morning after July 4th and I awoke at 5 am. No need for an alarm clock, I was just determined to see the New Jersey sunrise, and my mind was the only alarm clock I needed.

My mind has a unique inner clock. If I need to be awake at 8, I wake at 7:45. I know this process is in part why I don’t sleep well if I have a morning obligation. It’s like elevator music running in the background; always there. Sometimes I can ignore it and sometimes it rings through my head filling every grey wrinkle.

This wasn’t an obligation, just something I wanted to do before we returned to California–to be one of the first people in the whole United States to watch the sunrise on that day.

I snuck out through our back balcony and down the stairs. I made my way past the few houses separating us from the beach. The sky was dark and cloudy and there was a mild glow in what seemed like the north.

I had believed, up until this point, that the beach lined itself fully north and south.

And then the sky began to turn.

The light was not directly to the east as I had expected, or slightly to the north (the way it is watching the sun rise or set at home California). No, the sky began to turn, in my perspective, it was lighting the sky far to the north of the spit of sand. I began to realize that the island actually moves from NE to SW.

The island lies at a slant, from the SW to the NE.

I have chosen the perfect morning.

Some mornings were bright and clear and the sun rose dramatically, appearing past the horizon. Other mornings were dark and rainy, with no sunrise to speak of. This morning had the glory of the clouds and an incoming storm.

Red sky at night, sailor delight. Red sky at morning, sailor take warning.
Photograph of New Jersey sunrise, the sky is dark but there is a bright red forming/ Loscotoff 2022

As quickly as the red filled the sky, a sailor’s warning at sea, it dissipated and I could see the sun attempting to peek through. The sky beyond the clouds began to light but the sun was hidden.

The tide is out on the Jersey Shore, close up of shells with sky behind/ Loscotoff 2022
Low tide with a shadow of the sunrise in the distance.

I began to walk the beach, the tide far lower than any I had seen thus far. Bits of shell formed a line far from the water.

In the distance, I heard the sound of an engine as what looked like a truck made its way down the sand. The seagulls dived around it, celebrating what the surf rake turned up. I had never seen a surf rake and was intrigued by the smooth road of sand it created.

Photo of Sand combing early morning on the Jersey Shore/ Loscotoff 2022
A Surf Rake, picking up trash after the 4th of July.

The beaches of this part of New Jersey are stunning. The sand is heavy and coarse and can be hard to walk through as it sucks at your feet. The water shifts between warm and cold depending on the current. It is a wild coastline beloved and ever-changing.

Following an early morning sunrise, a perfect treat is one of the neatest little restaurants with fresh juice and more acai bowls than you can imagine. Not only do they offer acai, they have 4 other bases you can try; young coconut, pitaya, banana, and strawberry.

If I lived in Beach Haven, this would become a staple. You can tell is a local favorite by the lines extending beyond the doors.

Totally worth the wait.

The menu at Playa Bowls, Beach Haven NJ, Loscotoff 2022
Playa Bowls between 6th and 7th on N. Bay Ave.

I spoke in my last blog about how you can walk from one side of the island for sunrise to the other for sunset. It’s a fantastic bit of land with a small community that becomes much larger during the summer. The traffic lights only turn on in late spring and turn off in the fall–the rest of the year they are a perpetual blinking yellow light. Almost everything you need is within these few miles.

Beach Haven, New Jersey / Loscotoff 2022
To show how wide the island is, a short walk between sunrise and sunset.

Links

New Jersey – Day One

4th of July in Beach Haven, New Jersey

Surf Rakes – Beach Cleaning Equipment

Playa Bowls

About Me – My Creative Muse and the Afterlife

Sign up for my weekly newsletter – Fridays

My Short Story Journey

4th of July in Beach Haven, New Jersey

Fireworks over the bay in Beach Haven, New Jersey, 4th of July / Loscotoff 2022

It was a quiet 4th of July in Beach Haven.

Who am I kidding? The hoards of people came in and lined the beaches. The firecrackers popped and zinged. The night before, the air was filled with explosions, and laughter was heard long past 2 am.

The weather was that perfect mix of humid salty air and a cool breeze. Still far too hot for me in the sun, but we took a quick walk to the shore. Cousin Pat likes to say she’s checking that the beach is still there, and after living through Tropical Storm Sandy, she’s only half joking.

The umbrellas were lined up as far as the eye could see, both to the north and to the south.

This island is constantly in a fight with the tides, the sands transform daily. Artificial dunes are maintained to protect the homes on this spit of sand with fines for walking along their edges

Assured that the beach still existed, and not wanting to fight the crowds, we spent a relaxing day at the house, protected by the shade and hearing the crash of the waves in the distance.

As the sun lowered in the sky, we made our way to the west side of the island where the fireworks would reflect over the bay. We found our way early and settled on the wooden benches that overhang the water.

Teens wandered the area in enormous groups, the girls wearing a uniform of cutoff short shorts and midriff mini tops. The boys indulged in their collections of fireworks and groups of people would scream and run as they set them off in the middle of the crowds. Police roam the multitudes, taking alcohol from underage hands and pouring it out, without reprimand or ticket.

We hide somewhere along the edge and secretly I looked for an exit, imagining us leaping into the water should the screams of giddy excitement turn to something more like terror. I hate that that’s where my thoughts live when I am among crowds of people; how to escape with my family if this turns… bad.

Others line wooden benches, eating ice cream and acai bowls. We collectively watch as the sky streaks yellow and then orange and red. We watch the seagulls as they dip and dive over the water, searching for the small fish along the surface.

As the skies darken, we can see along the distant shore, the other side of the bay, the New Jersey mainland. Fireworks begin to shoot up in tiny bursts with every town on the bay’s western side having their own show. At one point, we see six shows happening in the distance.

I imagine our fireworks start much later than theirs because our backdrop is the sunset and theirs is the sunrise. Their view of the east darkens quickly while ours lingers. It is a clear difference of perspectives, one that has continued to linger over me as we sit waiting. I don’t feel particularly like celebrating freedom right now as I see women losing their rights. I don’t feel good about fireworks and pollution when we are facing climate crises around the world. I am aware of my anxiety over who in the crowd might be there to hurt others instead of being there to watch the lights as they explode through the sky.

This is balanced with wanting to experience something new, with spending time with my family. As always, I am a mess of contradictions and my mind fights to overthink everything.

Dark sky with moon and small bit of sunset, people on the edge of a pier waiting for fireworks, 4th of July in Beach Haven / Loscotoff 2022

Finally, around 9:40, the first firework is shot from a barge in the bay. The crowds cheer and watch as the colors reflect in the water, creating abstract images in the dark night air.

The smoke of fireworks linger over the bay.

As the show comes to a close, the teenage boys begin to chant, “USA. USA. USA.” They return to their drinking and their explosions. The crowds begin to clear; families climb on their beach cruisers and gangs of bicyclists find their way home.

It will be another long night as teenagers make their way to the beach to party on the sand, roving around the neighborhoods, avoiding police. The personal fireworks ring through the air.

The cool night air kisses my skin and there are no bugs to speak of. Sitting outside on the porch listening to the waves crash on the sand brings moments of peace amongst the chaos.

Links

Photos of the teens – By Pat Trotter

New Jersey – Day One

Cousin Pat – Pat Trotter Photography

About Me

Sign up for my newsletter – Updates every Friday

My Short Story Journey

New Jersey – Day One

Photograph of the sun setting in New Jersey

Here I sit. Sipping a dram of whiskey, listing to the Atlantic Ocean on the New Jersey shoreline. Cousin Pat is heading to Scotland next week and this is part of her research.

We’re on the Jersey Shore on a narrow strip of sand that I didn’t know existed. I thought the coast of Jersey was like that of California or Brasil, a long stroke of sand or cliffs in a continuous unending ocean line.

But here is an 18-mile-long island, less than a mile wide. The sun rises in July at 5:30am over the Atlantic. 15 hours later, a short walk to the east, it sets over Little Egg Harbor, an inlet with only a shadow of land far on the other side.

It has been an emotional two weeks. I said goodbye to my old sweet cat, allowing her to pass humanely. A few days later, my father-in-law passed away, my husband, Fred, and his brother at his side. Then my gentle young dog’s eyes began to grey and suddenly I was making specialist appointments as I tried to minimize the damage with vet-prescribed drops and gels. I am in no way attempting to compare the sadness of these events, only that they were many and emotionally overwhelming each in their own way.

Despite these things, we chose to continue our plans to go someplace we’ve never been, Long Beach Township, New Jersey. We have been discussing this visit for years. We first planned our trip for summer of 2020; and then there was Covid. About four months ago, we finally took the leap and bought the tickets.

I suppose if this was just a vacation for us, perhaps we would have canceled. But it wasn’t just for us.

My father-in-law, Bill, has a cousin, and she had been asking us to visit for almost 10 years. My husband’s job in the Air Force often interfered, with deployments to Germany and Korea, and just the commitment to a job that was often unrelenting. He retired in January and took a job working in a high school. Suddenly we were faced with him having actual time off; a whole month every July.

With Fred’s father passing, it seemed even more important to make the journey to spend time with his cousin.

And so early on the morning of July 2nd, we got up early, dropped the dog off at his cage-free boarding (who assured me they will take care of his beautiful eyes), loaded our daughter in the back seat (up all night with a terrible migraine) and headed to Las Vegas.

I’m sure you’re wondering, Las Vegas? We live in the Tehachapi Mountains, only an hour from Bakersfield and only 90 miles from Los Angeles. In my flight searches, Las Vegas provided the only direct flight while also being the least expensive.

Photograph of flying over Lake Michigan/ Loscotoff 2022
Flying over Lake Michigan, the edge in the far distance./ Loscotoff 2022

Travel these days is complicated and the warning for this weekend was glaring; canceled flights, not enough pilots or airplanes or staff. Las Vegas was quiet and clean and easy.

We arrived in Newark near midnight. There was very little wait for bags and then went to meet our driver; a New York native who had settled in Jersey. You could feel the 98% humidity, a warm heaviness to the air. He drove us the hour-forty-five minute drive south and onto Long Beach Island. There are regular tolls along the Garden State Parkway and even in the dark, I could see the dense trees lining the edges.

The roads were wet from occasional rain storms and when we finally arrived at Cousin Pat’s, the smell on the island was deep and earthy. Hers is a 1950’s bungalow surrounded by modern beach craftsmen. She has a beautifully landscaped yard filled with flowers and bark.

She’s the 5th house from the Jersey Shore. The beaches, and many of the properties here, were destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Her home was piled with 3 feet of sand, taking 11 trucks to clear the property.

You would never know, almost 10 years later, that this little community was hit so hard.

It was overcast with a warm fog when we woke in the morning and made our way to walk along the beach. The plantlife is much softer than that on the California Coast, with broadleaf and grasses growing in the beige sand.

The sand is both thicker and looser than what I am used to in California. It is damp from the humidity and seems perfect for building sandcastles. You sink as you walk, not having that same compact firmness of California beaches. There are beautiful polished stones and tiny clamshells.

Photograph of the Jersey Shore, overcast with the waves coming in.

Later, we found our way downtown.

I didn’t know what to expect as we packed for this trip. I somehow imagined a sleepy community on an island and wanted to be sure we had exactly what we needed in case it involved driving off the island for more.

The sun came out as we walked into downtown, we were met with the hoards of travelers, families who haven’t fully been able to travel in 2 years. There are shops and restaurants on every block; ice cream and bagels are a staple.

In the afternoon, Pat and Fred journeyed out to the local fresh fish market and brought us home scallops, recently caught. Pat magically cooked them up on the BBQ and they seemed to melt with every bite.

As the sun lowered in the sky, we made our way the short walk to the west side of the island where we watched the sun set in dynamic oranges over the bay as paddleboarders and small boats made their way through the water.

Photograph of my daughter watching the sun set in Long Beach Township/ Loscotoff 2022
Photograph of me and my daughter, watching the sunset/ Loscotoff 2022

We ended our day with ice cream. As we waited in line, we had a small family of 3 in front of us. They had the Jersey accents you dream of. As they began to order, more and more began to join them; grabbing their cones and wandering off again. Finally, the father turned and looked at us and said, “Sorry. There are a lot of us. All family.”

Photograph of family walking back to the house in Long BeachTownship/ Loscotoff 2022

Notes

Cousin Pat – Pat Trotter Photography

Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey

About Me

My Short Story Journey