Antonio Romano was one of the best friends I ever had.
Numerous times he and I talked about everything he wrote in this article, published in Vital Christianity, July 5, 1981. I thought it appropriate as we approach Independence Day.
“America! The land of opportunity! Opportunity to start a new life. Opportunity to express our God-given freedoms.
“America is very special to me. These opportunities were very real to me. I have experienced the opportunity to start a new life. My parents chose the United States of America, the land of opportunity, as the place in which to live and work and rear their family.
“I was born in Italy and I am proud of my heritage; but I love America! My parents lived in Tricarico, Italy, a very poor, hilly southern village of about twenty thousand people. There were very few jobs and hardly any means to earn a living. My father, along with many others, sailed to America in 1909 to find work and save enough money to send for my mother and me.
“It was five years before we were able to join my father in America. Mother was about four months pregnant with me when my father left Italy, so the trip my mother and I took five years later was full of excitement! I was so young and had so much to look forward to. A new country, a new home, new friends and meeting my father for the first time was more than my young mind could comprehend.
“I remember vividly what I saw and how I felt when mother and I arrived in America. The immigration procedures were tiring and boring for me, but soon we were on our way to Decatur, Illinois, where my father had found work in a coal mine and a little place to start our home.
“I loved the scenery and all the sights as we traveled across country on an old steam engine train. The old-fashioned electric car we rode in from the train station in Decatur was another curious thing! I rode backwards, and the driver didn’t have a steering wheel. Can you imagine what must have been going through my mind? I was experiencing so many new things in such a short period of time. I loved my new home. I loved my father. I loved America. The words at the base of the Statue of Liberty have special meaning for me. I experienced what America is all about.
‘Give me your tired, your poor,
‘Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free;
‘The wretched refuse of your teeming shore;
‘Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me;
‘I lift my lamp beside the golden door!’
“As I began school and learned the history of the United States, I began to appreciate the new opportunities I gained living in America. I loved America more than ever!
“I shall never forget the day our family became United States citizens. My father and mother never attended school. Since they could not read or write, the court examiner permitted me to be my father’s interpreter even though I was only eleven years old. We all passed the tests and became American citizens on March 21, 1921. Ironically, that very day a new law went into effect requiring each alien to pass a personal test to obtain citizenship.
“The opportunity to start a new life in a new country was an exciting venture. But the opportunity to find salvation was the greatest experience of my life!”
Antonio added, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage” (Psalm 33:12).
Thanks, Tony, to you and your family for adding so much quality to the United States from your adopted home in Decatur, Illinois.