National Geographic : 1949 Jan
Shrines of Each Patriot's Devotion BY FREDERICK G. VOSBURGH ASTRONG wind blew over New York Harbor, and the Statue of Liberty was "waving her torch." As we climbed through her right arm, 40 feet long, it shook as if alive. Thirteen 1,000-watt lamps that illuminate Liberty's torch, 300 feet above the bay, must be checked at regular intervals. I had been invited to come along on an inspection climb. "We have to keep the arm closed to the public," said the superintendent of the Statue of Liberty National Monument as we stood panting in the giant torch of copper and glass. "Too many people 'freeze' with fright. You can't get them up or down the ladder. "This shaking doesn't mean there's anything wrong. The arm has been swaying in the breeze ever since the statue was erected in 1886." Suddenly this seemed symbolic-Liberty's uplifted arm buffeted by all the winds that blow, yet sustained by an inner strength of steel; constant vigilance necessary to keep the light of Freedom shining bright! National Shrines Tell Nation's Story Far below, some 900 persons swarmed through Liberty's copper form, gift to the United States from the people of freedom loving France. By elevator and stairs they ascended to look out from the 25 windows that form the jewels of Liberty's seven-rayed crown (page 52). In the pedestal many paused to read com passionate Liberty's words of hope to the Old World, words which have special meaning today as the first of 205,000 of Europe's homeless victims of World War II arrive in the United States under the Displaced Persons Act: Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door! * During the war and postwar years more Americans than ever before have thronged through the Statue of Liberty and the scores of other national shrines that tell the story of the United States. Partly this is because the population is larger by nearly 15 millions than it was before the war. Partly it is because the number of shrines under the efficient care of the National Park Service has increased. But also it re flects new appreciation of the meaning of the American heritage in these troubled times. Perhaps the strongest single impression is that liberty did not come easily. It had to be won. Typical are comments I saw scrawled in the registration book at the Morristown National Historical Park at Morristown, New Jersey, where General Washington made his head quarters during two winters of the Revolution. "I have been again impressed with the wonders of the American heritage." "Makes a lump come to your throat." "For the sacrifices our forefathers made we must carry on." "Good oh!" exclaimed an Australian flyer in the slang of his homeland. A Scottish able seaman in the British Navy was particularly interested in the Cambridge flag, used early in the Revolution. It bore both the Union Jack of Britain and the stripes of America. "That's the way it should be now," he wrote. Eloquent of the same spirit of patriotic appreciation are the thousands who have waited in line at every stop of the Freedom Train, the red-white-and-blue-painted stream liner that has been carrying through the land the American charters of liberty. But even at 10,000 a day it would take more than 40 years for every American to walk through the Freedom Train. While they waited millions would die and millions of others would be born. No such limitation applies to the country's national shrines. So numerous and widely scattered are they that almost any American any day may visit one or more after only a few hours' drive. Tears, Kisses, and Prayers These shrines of each patriot's devotion arouse every conceivable human reaction. Some want to kiss historic ground-and pick up "just a pebble or two" to take home as a souvenir! At graves or shrines of beloved national leaders, a few cry, others pray, and a respect ful hush prevails. On the great battlefields or on the Oregon Trail, historians and serious students share the thoughts of Washington, Grant, and Lee, or of the westward-pushing pioneers-and they write better history for it. But mostly the crowds are full of fun, a free people on holiday. At the entrance of one old fort in the South a sign read, "Service Men Free." "Oh," said a pert miss, "I'll take one!" To another young woman old St. Augus tine's hoary Spanish fort, the Castillo de San * From The New Colossus, by Emma Lazarus, 1883.