Patriotism on display in Woodhaven
by Ed Wendell
Jul 05, 2012 | 1166 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
This week, the residents of Woodhaven will join the rest of the country in celebrating our Declaration of Independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain, which occurred 236 years ago on July 4, 1776. Later that summer, the British invaded and the battle stretched all the way from Long Island through Queens and Brooklyn and into Manhattan.

What was seen by the British as a major victory at the time is now seen as a brilliant escape by General George Washington, and by 1783 America was victorious and Washington had become our first president.

More than two centuries later, pride in our country and its accomplishments is strong in Woodhaven. For a few years, the number of American flags hanging from front porches in Woodhaven seemed to be in decline.

But that trend appears to be turning around, and for that we credit folks like Mary and Dennis Farley and Principal Cathleen Quinn of St. Thomas the Apostle for helping to instill pride in our flag at that school's annual Flag Day ceremony.

Principal Quinn described their Flag Day ceremonies as one of her favorite days of the year because it begins the development of patriotism in their youngest students and continues through the time when they finish 8th grade.

"They've learned through all these years what it means to be an American,” she said at this year's ceremony. “What it means to be proud. What it means to be the children of immigrants that come together in the finest country in the world."

Principal Quinn's words resonated with me personally, as I am a child of an immigrant. My mother came to the United States when she was 18 from Scotland, flying here on a propeller plane in 1956 and landing at Idlewild Airport (now known as John F. Kennedy International).

"Very colorful," she said when I asked her for her first impression of New York. "When we stepped off the plane there were bright colors everywhere. Driving over the bridge into Manhattan the sun was setting, everything was orange, we were surrounded by yellow cabs. It was like stepping into a technicolor world."

She came here as a domestic and lived on Park Avenue and 80th Street. She was a legal alien, meaning that she had a green card, but she used to have to carry that card with her everywhere.

"You could be asked for your card at any time," she told me. "And if you didn't have it on your person, you could be taken to a place and held there until it could be produced."

After she was married and had the best baby ever, she moved to Queens, first in an apartment on 102nd Street ($80 a month, two-bedroom, living room, kitchen, bathroom) and then in a Jamaica Avenue apartment on 95th Street.

She says that Jamaica Avenue and Woodhaven reminded her of Govan Road in Glasgow, Scotland. "With the buses and the shops, I felt right at home."

She eventually began the path to full citizenship, and I was most proud to be standing at her side when she swore an oath of allegiance to the United States before a judge in 1974. She's never given up her love for the country she was born in, but the United States became the country she will call home for the rest of her life, and every year she makes sure an American flag flies all summer long.

Folks like my mother, Principal Quinn, and the Farleys continue to remind us how important it is to fly the flag, to be proud of our country, to be proud to be part of something special - proud to be an American.

And by passing along this tradition to the children, they ensure that American flags will fly in Woodhaven far into the future.

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