The three kids; Nicky,16, Tony, 10 and Giulia, 8, stood wide-eyed on the deck of the steamer, holding their ears, transfixed by the cascade of fireworks above the great statue of the woman with the torch. They had arrived after a ten-day passage from Naples, unaccompanied by their mother who couldn’t get a visa, on May 26,1924.
Giulia, the 8-year-old, was my mother. Her parents planned to request a visa for their mother the following year. The request was denied twice. Maria Staniscia DiRado was not permitted to enter this country until 1934, ten years after her children.Giulia didn’t see her own mother again until she was 18. She had nightmares and fits of depression from this separation until her death at the age of 88. My mom was a kind soul who never hurt a fly. Children don’t really ever recover from trauma like that.
Our story, my story, had a happy ending. The family from the Abruzzo proved very tough and held firm. The kids grew and married. We are now doctors and scholars and trades-people and artists and teachers. We made something of our communities and of our country. I and millions of my fellow citizens, all of us descendants of immigrants, aren’t going to allow darkness to snuff out Liberty’s torch. I will meet hatred with compassion, ignorance with truth, bigotry with resolve, and misery with kindness. I won’t back off, and I won’t stay silent. Maybe I should be frightened, but I’m not.
I come by it honestly.
Ho una testa dura, Io sono qualcuno…
This story was told by Joe Baker