That moment in 1938

It was 1938. The ship President Roosevelt dropped anchor. We had arrived in New York City harbor. Everybody rushed out on deck to see through the morning mist the ''lady with the torch.''

To us immigrants, this was the moment of fulfillment after months of anguish. We cried for joy to each other: ''Do you see her? The Statue of Liberty, she is real! We are in America - we are free!''

The American tourists, happy to be back after their long vacations in Europe, rushed to the exit ramp and disembarked without delay.

We refugees from Hitler-dominated countries waited patiently until all immigration formalities were handled. Filled with thoughts of gratitude, we promised ourselves, ''We shall do everything to be worthy of this country that has taken us in and given us freedom.''

It is now 1983. 45 years have passed - almost to the day. A lifetime! Jokingly I have often said that the lady with the tourch called to me on that misty morning, ''I have been waiting for you.''

It took many of these 45 years for me to justify her expectations. Thinking back, I tell her: ''I tried to deserve your faith in me. I hope you are not disappointed.''

Now newspapers report that my beloved Statue of Liberty is in need of repair and the arm holding the torch is rusting and in danger of disintegrating.

I pray she will never disintegrate - nothing must destroy the arm that holds high the light of freedom.

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