This morning, Independence Day, I made three pilgrimages: Ground Zero, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. In describing Ground Zero it is difficult to avoid banalities and clichés. It is a vast, livid scar, though the miracle is that more of the buildings that pressed up against the World Trade Center were not damaged or destroyed. And now they are re-building, and that simple act – slow as it may have been to get under way – is a vivid symbol of New York’s and America’s indomitable spirit. Across the water, Liberty stands sentinel as she has done for so long (since 1876). An inspirational symbol, she is also a brilliant act of engineering and, arguably, one of the two most recognisable structures of the modern world; Gustav Eifel’s engineering company had a hand in both of them. Last but surely not least, I visited Ellis Island, gateway for millions of immigrants to the United States. This was not just tourism. One of the characters in my work-in-progress is supposed to have passed this way, so I had notebook in hand as I made my way around. It has been dolled up now, but the permanent exhibition is very well done and the buildings are still very atmospheric.