To you this may just look like a random piece of metal in a rock, but this peg is so much more than that……..
In the early 1800’s, John Randel Jnr had the idea for a city -what we now know as Manhattan. He was very committed to creating the unique grid pattern NYC is famous for, and for 4 years he hammered in these metal pegs where the corner of each block would go. It had to go where it had to go. John Randel Jnr wasn’t very popular as he would sometimes have to hammer them in the middle of people’s houses. The sheriff eventually arested him but he didn’t give up. When he was released from jail he continued on with hammering in the pegs. In the original design there was no Central Park. These days Manhattan couldn’t be imagined without it. Some others had a look at the design and they weren’t happy with it. Something was missing. That is when they had the idea for Central Park. Some of the trees in Central Park have been there since Randel started hammering in the pegs, maybe even before! The last known remaining peg lies next to The Dairy in Central Park in a secret location (but my Mum was determined to find it!) Without John Randel Jnr we might not have had Manhattan. This is a very important piece of Manhattan’s history that we will be thankful for.
Between 1892 and 1954, Ellis Island was the first place millions of new immigrants landed in New York. This is where they were documented and processed before beginning their new lives in America.
At least 250,000 failed the medical tests when they arrived and they were sent back to their homeland.
After a long time at sea I imagine seeing Ellis Island would have been a big relief.
One girl from Ireland called Annie Moore, was the first official immigrant to land at Ellis Island. She received a $10 gold piece to commemorate the occasion. Despite her happy arrival she was to face the hardship endured by many new immigrants. She lived on the lower East Side and never moved away. She gave birth to 11 children and died at 47!
In the early 1890’s they decided that Ellis Island was not big enough. Engineers built a sea wall away from the island, it was set deep into the harbour floor, they filled the area in between the wall and the island with tonnes of dirt, sand and stone. At the time , the first subways were being built so they transported tonnes of dirt from the tunnels being made to help. It was expanded again later. The island went from 3.3 Acres to 27.5 acres! Eventually it was like a village on the island including a hospital, main building, foreign money exchange, power plant and post office.
9 out of 10 people were English, Irish or German, mostly they came to start a new life because things at home were tough and they had heard good things about America. Often the father would come out first and get work and then save enough money to bring out the family.
As the years went by, Russians, Hungarians, Polish and Italian people began to come. My cousin’s grandfather came to New York from Poland in 1922 when he was 19 years old and he had a very successful life here.
New York is a melting pot of different cultures and that is what makes it so special. The people who made the hard decisions to leave their homelands had to work very hard to create new businesses and sometimes they lived in apartments with 10 people in a room.
Seeing Ellis Island made me feel grateful that I live in a country with many opportunities and I have no reason to leave unlike many people who have to leave due to war, persecution and poverty.
The Statue of Liberty
The Statue of Liberty is an iconic landmark in America. It would have been a very welcome sight for millions of immigrants on their way to Ellis Island. It would have been the first thing they saw and they would have been very pleased to know their long journey was almost over!
Actually, the Statue was a gift from France and some people in the United States were suspicious about the reasons behind the gift and almost said no!
In 1865 there was a dinner party hosted by a French man called Edouard de Laboulaye. He was an expert on American History and thought all countries should be able to elect their own leaders like America did. At the time France was still ruled by emperors who did what they wanted and if you said anything bad about them you got in trouble. Laboulaye wanted to make a political statement about freedom but he didn’t want to get into trouble. At the dinner party was a sculptor called Frederic-August Bartholdi and he liked to make big sculptures. The two of them came up with the idea to build it but they had to be careful because Napoleon the emperor might put them in jail.
Actually the final design for the statue came from a plan Bartholdi had for a lighthouse over the Suez Canal which was rejected.
It took many years to build the final version of the statue because they had to raise the money to make it happen. When it was finally finished and shipped to New York in 1884 they had to wait another two years for the pedestal to be completed.
The statue is so big up close. It is as tall as a 22 storey building and weighs 225 tonnes.
As I was standing there I was amazed by how big it was in reality. I had seen it in so many movies and on so many posters, but nothing beats seeing her up close. It was truly beautiful.
On September 11, 2001 tragedy struck America when 4 American Airlines planes were hijacked by terrorist group Al Queda.
Two of the jets were flown into the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in Manhattan, one was flown into the Pentagon in Virginia and another was headed for the White House in Washington DC. The passengers on that plane realised what was happening so some of them went into the cockpit and forced an emergency landing, crashing into a field in Pennsylvania. There were no survivors from any of the planes.
I went to the memorial museum in Manhattan. It was very sickening to know that someone would want to hurt America in this way just because they don’t agree with the way people live here or with the way America was involved in overseas conflicts.
When the jets crashed into the twin towers, the towers eventually collapsed because of the impact. There were many stories recorded of people remembering what happened that day.
One man was working in his office in the North Tower, he looked up and saw a plane flying toward his window. He hid under his desk and unbelievably he survived. I cannot imagine how terrifying that would be.
I heard stories of people who said they were lifted up when the buildings came down because it was like an earthquake, crossed with a tornado. There was debris flying everywhere, they talked about how much paper there was everywhere and dust, so much dust you couldn’t see anything. After the South Tower collapsed at 9.59, many people evacuated the North Tower and couldn’t figure out where they were because there was no South Tower any more and the air was full of debris. One fireman said he had to pull debris from his mouth, it was so hard to breathe. Others said it hurt to breathe.
Many people chose to stay in the building, as that had been the original instruction from the management. Eventually the North Tower collapsed at 10.28am. This was where many FDNY fire- fighters lost their lives as they were in the tower trying to get people out.
The fire-fighters were real heroes. In the museum, there are fire trucks that were outside at the time and are completely ruined, they are dusty and have bits missing. Sadly in many cases the fire crew never returned to their truck.
There are many artefacts from people that were there, like peoples shoes, and there is a bike rack that still has 8 bikes chained to it. After 9/11 only one person came to claim their bike. There is also a store front for a jeans shop where all the clothes were covered in debris, this is in the museum exactly as it was that day. There are pieces of the towers, including a staircase used by many evacuees when they were escaping all of the chaos.
It was nice to hear the stories of people who helped, who stayed behind. There was a group of people who stayed in the North Tower to bring out a disabled man, they were told to leave him and run by the fire-fighters, but they insisted on bringing him out themselves, about one minute after they got out the tower started collapsing. What a lucky escape!
9/11 was something that no-one saw coming. After seeing everything, it hit me that this is real, it really happened and it’s really sad. Over 3000 innocent people died because of a terrorist group who for some reason think everything about America is wrong.
Approximately where the towers stood, they have created a North Pool and a South Pool which have the names of all the victims written on them, I think it was a really quiet and peaceful way to remember the people tragically killed.
The United Nations
I was excited to go and see the UN in New York. I was lucky to see the UN in Geneva in 2013. Our friend Oren works there and recently moved back to New York. He took as on a tour.
The United Nations was established after World War 2. Actually, after World War 1, a few nations tried to create the League of Nations to try and stop international conflict before it turned into war ever again, sadly they could not get enough agreement to go ahead, and we all know what happened after that. So after World War 2, Franklin. D Roosevelt , the President of the USA was a driving force behind it, the USA and other countries who had defeated Germany were the first members. It was created ‘’ to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war”. So far so good!
The UN steps in to help resolve conflicts all over the world and to help when disaster strikes. Oren went to work in the Maldives for the rescue effort after the Boxing Day Tsumani in 2009. Through their UNICEF division, they also help children all around the world to have a better life. I really liked the ‘School in a box’ that Oren showed me. This is a big trunk that is sent to refugee camps so that up to 20 children per trunk can have some education. I thought this was great.
Oren’s job now is about getting children immunised in developing countries. The UN oversees 90% of the important immunisation for children. He works with Bill Gates (who is a billionaire who started Microsoft) and his foundation, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to manage the program on their behalf. I think it is really great that he can help so many kids to be protected from bad diseases. Especially when they often live in very poor conditions.
We were lucky enough to have access to the Security Council which is where 15 elected countries meet to discuss international peace and security. We also went into the General Assembly where Donald Trump stood and spoke about North Korea and also Malala talked about education for girls. I got to take a photo in the exact same spot!
There are many other rooms where meetings take place every day, these are set up with country names and there are always interpreters sitting in the boxes overlooking the room. We went in when a meeting was on and heard many different languages.
I really enjoyed visiting the UN because I got to learn more about what they do and how they make a difference to our world.
Natural History Museum
The Natural History Museum is big! It takes up 4 blocks, which is a lot. The museum is on 81st St and my Great Aunt’s apartment is on 84th St, so it was very easy for me to get there.
There are 30 million specimens from all over the natural history world. We did not have time to see that many!
We started by looking at the dioramas, which cover animals from Africa, the Americas and Asia. I thought it was cool how they made the backgrounds so realistic but I found it weird as well. I thought it was kind of old fashioned that they used to stuff and mount an animal. But then I also wonder if this might be the future too because I don’t think zoos are the right way to see animals. Maybe they can make models and fake fur in the future so no animals die. Maybe they will even be robotic animals.
I liked the Pacific Peoples exhibit. It was interesting to learn about the different cultures of the pacific islands. I really liked the replica Moai statue from Easter Island. It was in Night at The Museum.
The dinosaurs were AMAZING. This was my favourite exhibit. You could even touch actual dinosaur bones. I thought “oh my gosh, I’m touching something that is millions of years old!” The museum has one of the biggest collections of actual bones, not fake ones, in the world. I couldn’t believe I was standing beside an actual T-Rex, and an Apatosaurus, wow!
We also saw skeletons from various eras including the Mammoth, which was really big. There was also a glass case that showed the evolution of elephants over time. They used to be really small. I wonder why they got so big?
Ocean life was pretty cool, but it’s kind of weird seeing things in display not moving and fake water. The giant Blue Whale that hangs over the exhibition was cool, it was enormous.
The planetarium was good. We saw a movie about the Big Bang and what happened to the universe after it. The Big Bang happened 13 Billion years ago. I tried to imagine how there was no life as we know it back then and in-between we have had so many eras. It made me realise how young human civilisation really is. I wonder what will happen in the next 13 Billion years.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
I wish we had had more time but we didn’t get here till our last afternoon. We decided to focus on my main area of interest which was Ancient Egypt. Wow, the display was enormous, they even had a temple and a tomb and real Mummies. Some of these artefacts are over 10,000 years old.
Mum wondered why there were so many things here and not in Egypt. I thought maybe because more people are likely to see them in America and learn about their culture.
The statues were amazing, and there were walls with hieroglyphics. The Egyptians were very artistic, clever and also very advanced.
My favourite was the statue of Hatshepsut. I had already read about her in a book. Did you know that after her reign was over they tried to erase her from history by destroying evidence and artefacts from her life. Guess why? People were worried that after her successful reign more women would want to be Pharoah and they did not want that to happen. Hatshepsut also used to wear a fake beard so she was more accepted.
We got to go inside the Temple of Dendur. This was amazing. It was built in 10 B.C. It was a gift from Egypt after the USA helped them recover many artefacts that were affected by rising river levels. It was sent to the Museum in 1967.
The Met is really huge. You would need days to see everything. It is one of the biggest art collections in the world. We saw some paintings. Some by Italian Masters and other more recent ones like Van Gogh and Monet. I found it interesting to see the difference in the style of paintings. In some early paintings, it looks like a photo and even close up you can see what it is. Mum showed me the Impressionists, where they make what look like splodges and up close it looks like nothing but when you stand back it is a picture of something like Water Lillies by Monet. That was really cool.
I would love to learn more about art one day.
I really enjoyed my time in New York. I was lucky that I was surrounded by a lot of history every day I was there.