The Green Suitcase


It was the spring of 2003 when I finally visited my favorite city, New York. Before anything else, I went to the site of the Twin Towers.

Although I have never been unaware of the United States’s role in triggering some of the world’s largest calamities and catastrophes, I could not turn ignore the tragedy that befell New Yorkers on September 11th or cover up my sorrow.

On the corners and crevices of the site of the towers, street vendors were peddling the paraphernalia of American patriotism, from posters and postcards of the towers, to flags and mugs stamped with the insignia of eagles, I was reminded of the scene outside a shrine of Shah Abdulazim.

On the eve of my return to Montreal, the thought that I had not yet gone to visit “lady liberty” left me restless. Once we decided to leave at noon the next day, I decided to get up early to go visit a lady I had admired on postcards and the screens of television and cinema. <

It was around 8 a.m. that I joined the flood of New Yorkers streaming into the streets of Manhattan on their way to work and headed for the subways.

After stepping off the train into a crisp and delightful morning, I bought a ticket and stepped aboard the appropriate ferry. On our way to the statue, we first stopped at Ellis Island. European immigrants first stepped on this island to enter the United States.

The ferry dropped anchor and the passengers stepped off. We entered a hall where, at the time, new arrivals were first interrogated.

In the middle of the entrance hall, they had piled a heap of old suitcases and trunks. It attracted my attention. I walked up to them. The suitcases were behind a glass display, perhaps to keep them safe from being touched and mishandled by the visitors. The suitcases were memorials, reminders of those who, for the first time, many decades ago, had stepped on this land to pursue a better life for themselves and their children.

I stepped back on the ferry to make it to my main appointment. Throughout the trip, I thought of the suitcases. I remembered a green suitcase that I had held, more than twenty years earlier, in the last days of 1983, when, with my two month old son, I stepped foot in Canada in pursuit of a future that was far from clear. It was the suitcase that had accompanied me and my son as we sought sanctuary in a new and strange land.

Finally, I met Lady Liberty. She greeted her guests with a calm and gracious presence. We exchanged greetings and courtesies. I sat next to her for a short while, and then headed for the ferry to return to Manhattan.

On the way back, my green suitcase came to my mind. A suitcase that had become old and tired, and which I had held onto over the years without knowing why, was now all the more dear to me.