I wasn’t sure what emotion to have as I approached the small park in the Battery. I was strangely thankful for the soft rain which fell – if it was a bright sunny day, something would have felt off. The family members I were with all began their ascent through the small hill and I paused to take a deep breath.
The Irish Hunger Memorial is located on a small piece of land – just a half acre – right next to the Hudson River. A strange island of calm in the midst of the hustle of Manhattan, the memorial invites visitors to contemplate both the victims of the Irish Potato Famine and victims of hunger the world over. You enter through a dark passageway, which as quotes backlit lining the walls. The quotes – some in Gaelic, some in English – regard all forms of hunger and offer voices from the world over. As you walk up the passage, mournful Celtic music swirls through the air. Then you pass into a re-creation of a 19th century Irish farm house. After exiting the house, you begin the slow climb up the incline. A winding path through wild grass and heather awaits you and the path is marked by 26 large stones.
Each of the stones is marked with a county name since each stone came from one of the 26 counties of Ireland. I paused at the ones which were the homelands of my beloveds – Tyronne, Fermanagh, Antrim, Armagh, Down, Wicklow. Below is the one for County Armagh, which is where I was living when I fell in love with this island.
It was a holy few moments. It happened to be the end of a very interesting day in Manhattan, but that only added to the calm which the memorial demanded. I’ve thought about that day often since I’ve been here. The direction of the nation and the island and, in fact, their identities, are marked by the Hunger. Personally, I was grateful for that opportunity to pay my respects to the people who lost their lives to something beyond their control.