Inspiration for A Light Extinguished
A beacon of hope, a country astray, an immigrant nation has lost its way…
“A richly textured guide to the history of our immigrant nation’s pinnacle immigrant city has managed to enter the stage during an election season that has resurrected this historically fraught topic in all its fierceness.”
“A great resource for inspiring empathy and compassion in children and adults alike, urging them to get involved and speak up for those who need their voices amplified.”
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Inspiration for the A Light Extinguished
On the evening of March 8th 2017, as reported by the LA Times*, “For several hours on Tuesday night, the Statue of Liberty went dark, her body and robes entirely cloaked in darkness with only her torch shining on New York Harbor.”
I recalled the history of The St. Louis, a vessel of Jewish refugees, escaping the horrors of the Nazi Regime. The ship had been headed to Cuba, where the passengers intended to wait for the US Visas they had applied for to be approved. Deteriorating political conditions kept the passengers from disembarking there. According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum**, “the US State Department in Washington, the US consulate in Havana, some Jewish organizations, and refugee agencies were all aware of the situation.” Unfortunately, most passengers “were compelled to return to Europe.” Cables sent to President Roosevelt, requesting refuge were ignored. “The State Department and the White House had decided not to take extraordinary measures to permit the refugees to enter the United States. US diplomats in Havana intervened once more with the Cuban government to admit the passengers on a ‘humanitarian’ basis, but without success.”
With a cold chill, my mind slipped back and forth from past to present. How ironic that Lady Liberty should go symbolically dark just as the administration was attempting to snuff out her torch with a refugee ban, leading America to once again turn its back on people in need. From her front row seat to the painful mistakes of our past, Lady Liberty has born witness. Who better to plead for future empathy and compassion and warn us against repeating those transgressions?
What would she have to say in response to this Administration’s cruelty, I wondered? What would she think of our nation turning its back on immigrants and refugees? What insight would she have to offer from similar mistakes from our past? What would she say, and would she be silenced? These questions ultimately led me to write A Light Extinguished. I believe this book will inspire our nation’s youth to a position of compassion, empathy, and openness. May we all take up her torch and serve as a beacon of hope for those seeking safety and opportunity in our country, as Lady Liberty did for our ancestors.
I collaborated with the amazingly talented illustrator, Nancy Harrison, to bring this poem to life. What it has grown into, will hopefully inspire individuals to recognize the power a small light can have in igniting a movement.
A percentage of sales from A Light Extinguished will go to HIAS PA.
* Demick, Barbara. (2017, March 8) Statue of Liberty Goes Dark. http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-statue-of-liberty-20170308-story.html
** United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. “Voyage of the St Louis”. https://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005267