Sofia’s journey to America doesn’t have the happy ending she’d expected. While her family enters the United States, she’s detained on Ellis Island all alone.

My name is Sofia Monari, and I am nine years old. My family and I have left Italy to travel to America. There is Mama and Papa, my older sister Gabriella, who’s 13, and our two little brothers, Luca, who is seven, and Marco who is still a baby. Papa talks of starting a grocery when we get to America.

We saw the Statue of Liberty for the first time today! We could see her torch and her crown. Tomorrow we will land at Ellis Island and begin our new life in the New World.

I cannot believe it! I am in quarantine! Everyone else in my family was cleared to enter the United States, but because I had a cinder in my eye and it was red, I am now in the hospital on Ellis Island. What a nightmare! I am all alone, without my family, and not able to speak English so I can explain everything to the doctor.

I have met another girl my age, who’s here for the same reason I am — a cinder! Her name is Maureen, and she is from Ireland. She is going to teach me English.

We have just finished seeing the doctor. Maureen explained about the cinders in our eyes, but it did no good. How long will we have to stay here? Weeks? Months? What is happening to our families? Will we ever be able to see them again? Sometimes it seems like we will be trapped forever in this awful place that feels more like a prison than a hospital.