They caught the next ferry to Ellis Island itself. As they entered the main halls of what had been the processing center, Kepa couldn’t help but imagine the throngs of people that must have passed through here when it was at its peak. People who had given up everything and stepped into the unknown to find a new chance at life. He couldn’t imagine how hard it must have been and was thankful that he had had more opportunities at home, that he hadn’t had to make such a choice.
“Ondo zaude? Are you ok?” asked Maite as she watched him.
“Huh?” He shook his head, clearing his thoughts. “Bai, ondo nago. Just thinking about all of the people who stood here, hoping for something better out of life.”
Buber’s Basque Story is a weekly serial. While it is a work of fiction, it has elements from both my own experiences and stories I’ve heard from various people. The characters, while in some cases inspired by real people, aren’t directly modeled on anyone in particular. I expect there will be inconsistencies and factual errors. I don’t know where it is going, and I’ll probably forget where it’s been. Why am I doing this? To give me an excuse and a deadline for some creative writing and because I thought people might enjoy it. Gozatu!
They wandered through the hall, looking at the various exhibits. Edurne, who must have walked the halls more than a few times, still stopped at every exhibit, still studied each memento that marked the existence of one of those passengers who was otherwise lost to time. “I always find this place so fascinating,” she said. “So many names, it’s hard to imagine what became of all of them.”
Just then, her phone started buzzing in her pocket. She pulled it out and sighed. “I’m sorry, guys, but it’s work. I need to take this. I’ll be right back.”
“Of course,” said Maite as Edurne slipped back outside to take the call.
“Should we wait here or should we continue on?” asked Kepa.
“Let’s keep going,” replied Maite. “She’s seen it all and we don’t want to be late for the show tonight.”
Kepa nodded as they made their way up the stairs to the second floor and the Registry Room. As they climbed the stairs, Kepa felt a strange tingling in his hand, almost like it was buzzing. He started to hear a buzz in his ear. He turned to Maite.
“Do you hear…?” he began, but he knew immediately that she did. She was looking at her hand, which had begun to glow.
“What’s going on?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” replied Kepa. Pointing at a corner, he said, “Let’s duck over there for a moment to figure this out.” He reached out to grab her hand. As soon as their hands touched, there was a flash of light and immediately they were surrounded by what seemed thousands of people, all dressed in strange clothes. The men wore thick suits while most of the women wore dresses that fell to their ankles, many wrapped in thick shawls. Children were everywhere. They all looked bedraggled, the weariness etched on their faces.
“What just happened?” asked Kepa.
“I’m not sure,” replied Maite, as she looked down at her own clothes. She was wearing a dress similar to the other women in the room. “But, I think we’ve gone back in time.”