Hello! And welcome to The Gates Project. Thanks so much for your interest.
I am a journalist by profession, the possessor of a loud voice, the consumer of much diet coke, and the lover of greyhound dogs. I live in Ottawa, Canada. When I am not writing and working, I spend an inordinate amount of time holed up in a sewing studio.
It’s taken years to finally get here; to the place where I can begin to write publicly about my family’s strange disappearance from Brooklyn.
It is not an easy thing to pry into family secrets. To ask your relatives – no matter how gently – to return to dark and tangled places they might just as soon forget.
From my the earliest conversations with them (conversations that would be decades in the making) I realized whatever they told me would need to wait until some of them had passed away before it could be shared in any real public way.
For many, many years, any information I collected lived in what became known as “the gates box”. A bankers box full of research and a huge ambition that followed me all over the country while I was working for the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation).
With my Aunt Freddie’s passing in 2015, the time had come to open it.
This blog will be about what’s in that box; what has been collecting in there all this time, and what I am continuing to find out. It’s about the journalism I hope will serve as the basis for a larger story. And it’s about family secrets, and what happens when you tackle them … and whether you should tackle them at all.
My mother, my aunts and uncles are some of the most brave, gracious (and stubborn!) people I know. I am indebted to them for their patience. I have been, quite frankly, a bit of a pain in the rear end with all of my poking around, and they could have just as soon have told me to buzz off.
Instead, they took me back time and time again to Brooklyn’s streets of the 1920’s and 1930’s; and to that very hard life that came after. I am grateful for the stories they told, and for the ones they couldn’t.
In some cases, I believe their silence was all the information I needed.
I remember telling a journalism colleague a few years ago about my plans for this research. He just looked at me and said something along the lines of: “You’ll never find out what happened you know. It’s too long ago. Too much time has passed, and all the people who might know are dead.”
He’s right. At least partly. With the exception of one aunt (she of birth certificate fame), who is now 90 years old, anyone else who might know is gone.
But people leave things are behind.
Things that tell you someone may have wanted the truth known after all.
You can find me here. I would love to hear from you!
Or, on twitter: @sonjakoenig