I arrived in the US when I was 6 years old along with my family, who, like many others, were fleeing Europe on the eve of World War II. I can recall standing on the deck of the Rex, a legendary ocean liner, as my father pointed to the Statue of Liberty.
That memory has left me with a sense of security that is inextricably linked with America. We had reached a place of safety. The feeling of having escaped from the jaws of danger is impossible to describe. To this day, the American flag still has the ability to calm and uplift me.
We all piled into Grandpa’s big, black Packard while the steamer trunks were sent separately in one of his Santini Van Co. moving vans. We drove up the West Side of Manhattan to the North Bronx talking, laughing and occasionally even crying for joy. I sat on my father’s lap looking out the window at the moving panorama of New York. That day, in that big shiny black Packard, I experienced the deepest sense of security I have ever felt.
We were a family reunited and in a country that offered us protection. There was love and strength and unity riding with us that day. And to this day, whenever I arrive in New York City, I understand what it means to everyone who has sought refuge there. It is the city of hope and the entrance to the country that has provided me and so many others with peace of mind and an opportunity to fulfill ourselves in a way that is not possible anywhere else in the world.
And although I love to travel back to Italy as well as other parts of Europe, each time I return to the USA, I relive that moment and that sense of safety that is a natural part of life in America. Even when current events seem to overshadow the goodness that this country offers us, we should remind our grandchildren and tell our own special stories about America the beautiful, to keep American pride alive.
[This essay originally appeared on Eldr.com in 2007 on the sixth anniversary of 9/11.]
Leda Sanford has two grandchildren, Miles and Monica, and is the author of Pure Moxie and Look for the Moon in the Morning.