This week I came across some new info that I had not learned during my time growing up on Long Island, just outside NYC. It had always been known that Sept 11th was the first time our country had been attacked on our own soil since Pearl Harbor and it was the first time the mainland had been attacked. Or was it? Here is an article from the NYDaily News on how German Spies almost blew up the Statue of Liberty.
1916. The Black Tom Explosion. An incident I have never heard of…
An explosion big enough to register 5.5. on the Richter scale and caused by the Germans right in the middle of World War 1? An act of terrorism that almost took down the Statue of Liberty?
Every year, as a kid, we would go on school trips to the Statue of Liberty. Up and down we went, each year going to the crown and back down. We were always told the torch was closed to the public because of age. It could no longer support the weight of the crowds. A copper statue sitting in NY Harbor, surrounded by sea water, was taking its toll on the landmark. People could still go to the torch but it was incredibly limited, possibly to just employees or whoever needed access but the access was there.
Never did we ever have the chance to visit the Black Tom Memorial and it was never mentioned, let alone discussed. And a very odd name if you think about it. I’m looking for pictures and the internet does not have too many at all. I’ve never heard of this incident until this week.
The Statue always seemed to be worked on during my school days, with 1986 being one of the biggest renovations. No one seemed to notice as the summer of 86 was the year the NY Mets were taking all the headlines.
“Black Tom” is now part of Liberty State Park. A small memorial features a circle of American flags and a plaque that describes the disaster and declares, “You are walking on a site which saw one of the worst acts of terrorism in American history.”
I have never seen this site. On my next visit back I will make it a point to visit and get some pics because the internet does not have much at all on this. To me, it feels like new information. Something never taught, even to the locals. I wish my grandparents were still around. They came through Ellis Island and would have known about this to set the record straight.