I recently saw the movie “Brooklyn”,  based on the book by Colm Toibin, about a young woman who travels from Ireland to America seeking opportunity.  I immediately thought of my great grandma, Mary Healy, who left her home in Riverstown in County Sligo, in 1907 and arrived five days later at Ellis Island.

At the young age of 11, Mary accompanied her aunt Bridget in search a better life but mostly the unknown.  Unknown because there weren’t televisions, iPhones, computers and barely a telephone.  I can’t imagine the hope and fear they must have had similar to Eilis (pronounced Alish) in “Brooklyn”.

Eilis arrived at Ellis Island around 1950 all alone with no family or friends except for a Priest.  He helped her get a job, a home with other Irish immigrants and eventually an education.

I don’t know if my great-grandmother had a plan laid out like Eilis but most importantly, she survived.  Mary found a home in Newark, NJ, eventually met my great-grandfather (O’Hare), started a family and had six children.

Great Grandma Mary & I She lived to be 97 and passed in 1993.
Great Grandma Mary & I
She lived to be 97 and passed in 1993.

My grandmother is now 95 and had a family of her own, one son who died shortly after birth and three daughters; one of which is my mother.  I’m sure you’re wondering why I’m telling this story!

First, let me say that I think the evolution of my family is amazing.  I think I get my fire from my great-grandmother and grandmother; smart, witty, wise cracking and family above all else.  That’s where I come from.

Second, you reading this are a relative of an immigrant.  If you don’t already know your story, find out.  You might be amazed.

Lastly, the world we live in today is a scary place and very different from 1907 and 1950.  ISIS and other terrorist groups are threatening our freedoms.  As an American, we are the land of the free and home of the brave which will never change but I’m very conflicted on the topic of refugees.

We have our own citizens that are sick, dying, homeless and without food.  Syria is a place of terror and poverty beyond our imagination yet I fear for our own safety of terrorist.  I don’t have an answer, but if we didn’t have immigrants then you or I wouldn’t be here.



3 thoughts on ““Brooklyn” & Opportunity

  1. As the son of an immigrant, I find your family’s story fascinating as well. As a father, I am not as conflicted about the immigrant situation we are facing today. I think it’s important to realize that many immigrants of yesteryear had the desire to contribute to this great society. My parents always made sure that we participated in and integrated with the customs of our new society.
    Unfortunately, today’s immigrant threat if far greater than those of their times. We are faced with a cowardly foe that is looking to erode us from within, and impose their brand of societal structure which goes against every facet of the definition of Freedom.
    As a father, I do NOT want my daughter to be exposed to anyone who comes from this type of society, even for a minute, regardless of what the concept of liberty is or what it says in the constitution.
    Having said that, I am not a supporter of what Donald Trump is about or even how he is going about it.
    However, it is important to remember that Jimmy Carter closed the borders for Iranian Immigrants back in 79’ and also demanded that all existing Iranian students be “Vetted” in order to stay. As I recall reading, they deported quite a few that were here illegally. No one was up in arms then, because our society was more galvanized in those days.
    Let us not be naïve to the fact that our society is already under attack by those who seek to erode it from within. As a people, we have a very important decision coming up in 2016, and I for one will be doing an unprecedented (for me) amount of research so that I make the right one.
    Lastly, Trump is a clown who preys on the uninformed. I have faith that in the end, “we the people” will make the right decision, and a reasonable diplomatic solution will be forthcoming. However, closing the borders to these possible threats, while we take the time to get our “s#$@^” together, is not that bad of an idea.
    It’s a different world yes, but it is also a different immigrant we are dealing with today.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s