My very first international flight was as a ’10 pound pom’ emigrating to Australia in 1972. It was a convoluted journey with many landings and take-offs. As you can probably imagine there was heaps of excitement looking out the cabin window at the cities below as we circled for landing. So many memorable moments. One was of the flight path that took us over the slums of Bombay ( now Mumbai ). I had seen poor areas in England, but they bore no resemblance whatsoever to the vast sprawling tracts of land surrounding the airfield. The land which at first looked like a huge rubbish tip but as we descended revealed a swathe of corrugated iron walls and tarpaulin roofs.
Another memorable moment was at the other end of the spectrum. We were landing at John F Kennedy International Airport in New York. I had been reading about the famous Statue of Liberty in the flight magazine. The only thing showing on the screen in those days was the flight path, but at least they showed live footage and not just a simulation of the path.
As the plane prepared to land at 6 in the morning, it approached Manhattan from the North then banked to the left giving those of us on the left-hand side of the cabin an amazing view of this very symbolic statue ( photo below).
There are many myths about the original design of the statue and what it represents, but she is in essence ‘the mother of exiles’ – the unwanted and rejected ones. The words on the casting inside the monument are very clear. A powerful reminder of what is at stake in the United States of America and the election taking place on the 4th November. Not that we can influence the outcome but it’s good to be reminded of a few words that sit like a corner-stone in the character of the nation’s identity; indeed the character of any decent nation. The words were written by Emma Lazarus and installed on the 2nd November 1883:
The New Colossus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
What powerful words beneath one of the world’s most iconic statues.