QUINCY — On Sept. 11, 2001, a friend and I sat in stunned silence near the old North Bridge at Minute Man National Historical Park in Concord. No one else was around. The sky above was clear blue and absolutely quiet. Not an airplane was in sight; air traffic had been halted.
The World Trade Center towers in New York had fallen a few hours earlier, but we were on a bike ride and did not learn of it until we reached the park for lunch.
Last Thursday, I returned to the exact same hillside overlooking the bridge to see 48 people from 29 countries become American citizens.
I’d read about the naturalization ceremony that morning and felt drawn to go. I had just taken a course, “Battle of the Revolution,” in the Duxbury Life Long Learning program. It seemed fitting that on the eve of Patriots’ Day, those aiming to become Americans would take the oath of allegiance on the same ground where patriots had died defending rights that would become our own – and shared with others.
It was all very moving. The speeches were short and eloquent, reminders that the ideals of liberty, self-determination and diversity remain an essential part of the American identity.
“You will bring the richness of your cultures to your new country, and this will make us stronger,” Park Superintendent Nancy Nelson told those about to take the oath.
U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Jennifer Boal shared a personal story.
“Many of our own parents came to this country seeking better lives,” she said, and that included her mother, whose naturalization ceremony she attended years ago in New York.
Two days later, I was at the Cohasset Historical Society, where president Kathy O’Malley showed me the Cohasset “Images of America” book.
One chapter, “Those Who Came Before Us,” includes a photo of three young women at the seashore, “among the Azorean families who worked their way across the Atlantic in ships, entering the U.S. at the Port of Cohasset. Their immigration papers may have been processed at the Custom House at Summer and Border street.”
Another photo is of Carlo Conti, a cabinetmaker who emigrated with his wife, Philomena, in 1923 from Amaroni, Italy, settled in Cohasset in 1931 and restored antiques in his Sohier Street shop for 40 years. His intricate, carved miniatures replicas of American furniture can be seen at the society.
And from society board member Tom Gruber, I learned about the world-renowned Hanlon Brothers, of Irish heritage, from England. Acrobats, gymnasts and pantomime performers, they came to Cohasset in 1889 and established a production studio where the South Shore Music Circus is today.
Both the naturalization ceremony and the historical society visit served as reminders that as we celebrate our heritage and our freedoms, immigration remains one of strengths of this country.
Reach Sue Scheible at firstname.lastname@example.org, 617-786-7044, or The Patriot Ledger, P.O. Box 699159, Quincy 02269-9159. Read her Good Age blog on our website.