The Ellis Island Of The West
It’s amazing which topics we talk about in the OR: occasionally desperately futile, sometimes insanely funny, and often astonishingly profound.
We were recently discussing what team members’ ancestors had to go through to make it to the U.S., and how they got here. Ellis Island came up, of course. And then we talked about people immigrating from the other side of the world, including China. Where did they arrive?
Nobody knew. Of course, I immediately launched a comprehensive and highly scientific poll of several colleagues and nurses. Nobody knew. Please keep in mind that we live in Pennsylvania. Most of my colleagues’ ancestors came from Europe. Had I asked a colleague of Japanese descent living in California, I might have had a very different response.
My little quest ended after I asked Dr. P., a never ending source of knowledge. And the answer is … Angel Island.
Located in the beautiful San Francisco Bay, it is in fact just north of Alcatraz, which looks like a pebble in comparison. Angel Island has been used for different purposes over time. Because of its strategic location, it had been a military fort. During World War II, it became a prison for Japanese and German prisoners of war. It also became a huge immigration center. The immigration station admitted about 1 million Asian immigrants between 1910 and 1940. By comparison, the immigration station on Ellis Island admitted 12 million immigrants between 1892 and 1954.
Angel Island was no vacation resort. It felt more like jail, with repeated, lengthy interrogations. Some wannabe immigrants stayed there for months. Many went back to where they came from.
The administration offices of “the Ellis Island of the West” were destroyed by a fire in 1940, which is when the immigration facilities were moved to San Francisco. Fire has actually been a problem several times, including in recent years.
Angel Island has now become a National Historic Landmark and a state park (Angel Island State Park). You can visit the island, from which you can see the breathtaking San Francisco skyline.
According to Wikipedia—my other source for endless knowledge—“President Barack Obama, on the day of his inauguration, declared January 20 as National Angel Island Day in honor of all the immigrants who suffered long periods of detention before they were admitted to America.”
So there you go. We have Ellis Island in the East and Angel Island in the West.
Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a mobile, board-certified surgeon in Allentown, Pa. His website is www.DrPhilZeltzman.com. He is the co-author of “Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound: How You and Your Dog Can Lose Weight, Stay Fit, and Have Fun Together (www.WalkaHound.com).”10/24/2011 1:06 PM