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2005 03 31
Union Station-Part 2
imageThere is a man, perhaps he is your father too, born in the earliest years of this century, who no longer remembers his family, or how he earned his living, or where he lives...but still he remembers the moment he stepped from the train - via the great port cities of Gdansk, Le Havre, and Montreal - and entered the vastness of Union Station.

He was young and utterly abandoned, the kind of loneliness that is never quite erased, not even by fifty years of marriage. I don’t know how old I was when I first heard the story of his emigration and imagined his desolation and the magnitude of his responsibilities which seemed to fill the cavernous space of the station, but I was very young when his loneliness first entered me.

All great train stations are monuments to the most personal rites of passage and huge historic events – every form of leavetaking and arrival. Mass human displacements, waves of immigration, war, forced migration. Exile, dispossession, exodus, deportation. And for the fortunate, the Station was a place of extraordinary, impossible reunions.

We may be one of the last generations with memories run through by trains.

During the Second World War, Union station was the central terminal for soldiers being sent overseas. Through the 200 foot concourse, under the magnificent 88 foot vaulted ceiling of Italian - Guastavino - tile, past walls of densely fossilized Minnesota Zumbro stone, over floors and stairways of Tennessee marble, in light flooding from four-storey arched windows, past the 22 pillars, each 40 feet high, each 75 tons...thousands embraced for the last time on this earth. For so many, Union Station is the place where fathers, brothers, sons, husbands were last alive. And among all the partings, it is said, were lovers who had no place else to go, who came simply to join the anonymity of the crowd, so they could kiss with inconspicuous passion among the throngs crowding the platforms and the great hall, their public display swallowed up by the intense emotion all around them.
[email this story] Posted by Anne Michaels on 03/31 at 08:31 AM

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