An eerie feeling settles in as the ferry rolls through the bay towards Alcatraz. You depart from civilization and float towards isolation. Out in the middle of nothing, surrounded by water an island full of history lies ready to be discovered. Some people might find the prison too dark or ominous, but Katelyn is not one of those people.
“I love history and prisons,” Katelyn said. “I loved looking at the cells and learning what took place there.”
As people shuffle through the cell blocks, the clanking of cell doors echoes through the corridor. Outside, a tour guide details how the guards informed inmates upon arrival that great white sharks were trained to circle the island to catch attempted escapees. The tour-goers, who all have a ferry ride back to mainland collectively sigh in relief when the guide notes this story was just a tactic to prevent jailbreaks, and that sharks very rarely come into the bay.
“Visiting Alcatraz was a great experience,” Katelyn’s mom, Stacey, said. “San Francisco was an amazing area of the country to visit.”
The prison’s history is everywhere on the island. Katelyn walks the same halls the guards once did and she learns about its most notorious inmates like James “Whitey” Bulger and Al Capone.
Sixteen-year-old Katelyn, who has an immunodeficiency disorder, wished to go on a California adventure. Katelyn’s life-threatening condition caused her to miss out on most of her sophomore and junior years of high school. Having never visited California and tired of feeling like experiences were passing her by, Katelyn was drawn to San Francisco- a city rich in history and excitement.
Last summer, Katelyn’s condition took a rough turn. Katelyn and her family were left with a lot uncertainty and stress. Stacey says that the trip was a goal for Katelyn.
“To experience this trip, for Katelyn it was like ‘Hey, I made it’,” Stacey said.
As Stacey reflects on Katelyn’s wish journey, she’s especially thankful for the opportunity for Katelyn to have an adventure with her family. A trek through a national park, a prison tour and a zoo visit all made for an unforgettable trip.
“[Katelyn’s wish] was a bright spot,” Stacey said. “It gives kids hope that there are positive experiences outside of their illness.”
On the ferry back to San Francisco, the Alcatraz shoreline starts to fade. As she heads toward her next stop, Katelyn looks back one more time. She takes in the view of the prison. She recalls all the stories, legends, and history she learned and she smiles. This trip has become a part of her own history, one she can’t wait to relive again and again.