The Journey Home

July 28, 2008
By Amram Altzman, Brooklyn, NY

I walked through the street, long since deserted. I wandered over to a front lawn. I stared at the decaying house, now almost completely in ruins. The remnants of dry grass and rotting flowers crunched beneath my feet, for there was no one to tend to the house or the garden. I stared at the house some more. I walked up to the front steps. The address was barely visible through the mass of rot, cobwebs and dust. Sixty-seven years' worth of it. The address was 15 Jefferson Island Road. Suddenly I dropped to my knees. Tears swelled up in my eyes, and I, a fifty-six-year-old man was crying. I remembered......

It was 1941. America was at war with Germany. They needed a jumping-off point for the flight to Germany, since back then not many planes could make the full flight across the Atlantic. We, the Mid-Atlantic Jefferson Island; commonwealth of the United States, came ready-made for the job, and we needed protection from the Nazis as well. The American soldiers established an army base. Before we knew it, there were only navy boats in our harbors, and at night our lullabies were the sound of army planes flying high in the sky. As an nine-year-old, it was both exciting and scary for me. Living in my house at 15 Jefferson Island Road, which was about a half a mile from the base, I always heard the buzz of the airplanes and the wail of the sirens.

We were all safe, happy, and protected, until the fateful day when the sirens went off. I was at home, and we were enjoying a nice, peaceful dinner. We all ran to the shelter and turned on the radio to find out if it was a drill or not.

It wasn't. Far from it. We were under attack from Germany.

We waited in the underground shelter for a long time. I stayed awake the entire time, motivated by curiosity, excitement, and fright.

When we were finally allowed out, I tried to take in the view of the night sky, the moon and the starts. I couldn't, though. The sky was shielded completely by a coating of smoke. All around me, soldiers—American, judging by their uniform—were running about with their guns at the ready, and people were lying on the floor, both soldiers and civilians. Fainted, or maybe...dead. I looked across the street. All of the houses were nearly destroyed. There was a horrible stench of gunpowder and blood in the air. I started crying. I cried for the spilling of innocent blood; I cried for the loss of my home.

A boat came to take all the residents of Jefferson Island to America. When I saw all of the people of the island, all together on one ship, I realized how lucky my family and I were. Many children had become orphans, and most families had lost a loved one.

We arrived in America, and my parents helped found a shelter and an orphanage for all of the survivors and the orphans of Jefferson Island. My father and some of his friends went to the
court to plead for funds to supply the survivors with housing, food, and clothing, The plea was granted, and everyone was given a house or apartment in New York City. Ever since I had left the island, I had one dream: to return to my homeland, to restart civilization on a now destroyed island......

All of the memories, all of the feelings, all of the emotions that I have of my life on Jefferson Island came flooding back to me. I stood up and took in the sight once more. If my parents were still alive and with me, they would be so proud of me right now. I am sure that they are looking down at me from Heaven; happy that their son will bring back life to their island once. At these thoughts, I knew I had accomplished my goal.

My journey home.

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