I travelled to New York for the first time at the age of 22. It was with the Sligo football team – we were drawn against New York that year in the Connacht Championship.
We didn’t stay in the city, but I’ll never forget my first glimpse of the skyline on the road in from JFK airport. It was 8 months after the Twin Towers had fallen, and in an era when many looked to America for leadership and guidance.
And so it was like a dream. I had been to cities like Sydney and London at this stage, but this was another level. It was like nothing I had ever seen before. I couldn’t believe I was actually there.
Killing time before the game, we took a short ferry trip on the Hudson river, and had time for a quick stroll to Times Square when we got off. And wow. The amount of people, the steam coming out of the manholes, the beeping, the bright lights, the traffic lights.
So what must it have been like for the millions of immigrants who arrived in Ellis Island looking to live in the US in the late 19th and early 20th Century?
The younger me had television, films, photographs to prepare me for actually being there, but these people had nothing but the word of friends, neighbours and family who had already made the trip.
But what were they hearing?
Exaggerations? Romanticized views? Truth?
Ken Early of the Second Captains podcast once said that in order to understand what someone says, only 10% is what they say, but 90% is who is saying it. Now I’m not sure how much research was done into those figures, but the point is clear.
So. I’m telling you that once again the Manhattan skyline looked great today. I’ll even provide a picture of the southern end of it taken from the ferry this morning.
But did it look as amazing as it did in 2002? I’m not sure.
Even though the sun was out, and it was my first glimpse of the new skyscraper built on the site where the Twin Towers used to be. Because I have now been a few times, and so I’m coming at it from somewhere different than the first time.
So next time someone tells you something, especially something that might result in a major life decision (such as emigrating to the US), it might be no harm to at least seek a second opinion.
Because there’s always more to the words people say than the words people say.