On the evening of March 8th 2017, as reported by the LA Times*, “For several hours on Tuesday night, the Statue of Liberty went dark, her body and robes entirely cloaked in darkness with only her torch shining on New York Harbor.”
I recalled the history of The St. Louis, a vessel of Jewish refugees, escaping the horrors of the Nazi Regime. The ship had been headed to Cuba, where the passengers intended to wait for the US Visas they had applied for to be approved. Deteriorating political conditions kept the passengers from disembarking there. According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum**, “the US State Department in Washington, the US consulate in Havana, some Jewish organizations, and refugee agencies were all aware of the situation.” Unfortunately, most passengers “were compelled to return to Europe.” Cables sent to President Roosevelt, requesting refuge were ignored. “The State Department and the White House had decided not to take extraordinary measures to permit the refugees to enter the United States. US diplomats in Havana intervened once more with the Cuban government to admit the passengers on a ‘humanitarian’ basis, but without success.”
With a cold chill, my mind slipped back and forth from past to present. How ironic that Lady Liberty should go symbolically dark just as the administration was attempting to snuff out her torch with a refugee ban, leading America to once again turn its back on people in need.
What would she have to say in response to this Administration’s cruelty, I wondered? I sat down to write and let her take control of the pen. From her front row seat to the painful mistakes of our past, Lady Liberty has born witness. Who better to plead for future empathy and compassion and warn us against repeating those transgressions?
A percentage of sales from A Light Extinguished will go to the National Immigration Law Center.
* Demick, Barbara. (2017, March 8) Statue of Liberty Goes Dark. http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-statue-of-liberty-20170308-story.html
** United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. “Voyage of the St Louis”. https://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005267
I collaborated with the amazingly talented illustrator, Nancy Harrison, to bring this story to life. Nancy worked tirelessly to perfect the message through powerful images. She began with thumbnail sketches, working then towards full pencil sketches, and finally the beautiful images that grace the pages of the book. We hope the story and accompanying pictures will inspire individuals to recognize the power a small light can have in igniting a movement.