|I stole this headline. It’s from an article in the commentary page of the Opinion and Commentary section of the August 19, 2007, Tribune-Review newspaper.It caught my eye because it’s the title of the commentary I had in the back of my mind and because its what I’ve experienced in Laurel Mountain Borough.
I didn’t buy a home here thinking this community of 189 census-counted residents (plus uncounted part-time residents) was insulated from the world. I’m too realistic for that, having lived in communities that varied from a hilltop on 70 isolated acres outside Slippery Rock to Stone Mountain, Georgia where Atlanta’s population counter reached its two millionth mark while we lived there. Each community, no matter what size, had its share of crime and family abuse.
Our first home was in Buffalo, New York. The radio was rife with the city’s crime tales. Recently, when I took my unofficially adopted daughter to Parkside Candy Shop on Main Street by the University of Buffalo, I felt as unsafe as I’d felt safe in the past. Then I drove her around to show her where we lived. She was uneasy, telling me about the number of drive-by shootings that occur in this neighborhood today.
We moved to a college town in Pennsylvania and discovered parental neglect of children. There were other crimes, but I didn’t keep track of them.
In Stone Mountain a man knocked on our latched screen door. Fortunately our houseguest, an unwed mother who was our foster child, wasn’t in her usual spot—sitting on our porch. I answered the door and offered to make a call for the man who asked to use the telephone. When I told him I would call for him, he disappeared. Shortly helicopters were overhead, searching for him—he’d tried to axe his way into a neighbor’s roof, seeking to assault the pregnant woman he’d waited on in a shoe store earlier that day. Another incident occurred, only a few doors away—an attempted break-in at a police officer’s house. Later our family watched a film crew record the first scenes of a movie, Summer Rental, starring John Candy, at this house.
We moved back to Pennsylvania to a town known for being on the drug route between Pittsburgh and New Castle. A nearby community experienced three children’s deaths by murder. I ran an active support group for adults abused as children.
Then we moved to a small community at the southern tip of Pymatuning Lake, a tourist town wearing rose-covered glasses that camouflaged child and family abuse in the churches and community at large. There I administered a Children’s Trust Fund grant, welcomed by many who wanted to deal with the problems.
We moved to Fayette-nam, Fayette County’s nickname. I was nearly attacked while taking pictures of firemen at a house fire (my job as a reporter in the previous community). Then we found ourselves in the midst of arsonist’s attacks. While I was working in Slippery Rock, the TV news reported a one year old child in our new community was killed after being thrown against a wall by the mother’s boy friend while she was at the store. That December a house exploded, killing a pregnant woman and her four year old daughter as they entered the premises. As we moved from this city, eight years later, another arsonist was ravishing the neighborhood. I could walk to any and all of these events—it looked like a war-zone.
With my background of being an abuse and family counselor I knew NO community is immune to abuse and other crimes. Not even Laurel Mountain Borough.
Our first time here, looking at a for-sale-by-owner house, we met a woman who informed us of her fears of her abusive ex-husband. We weren’t intimidated, and bought the house anyway.
Each time I entered the stone pillars I felt like I was entering a cocoon, a safe place, protected from the world. The welcoming aura that was as detectable as the evil aura was in one of the former communities. It was refreshingly different from Fayette-nam. The unpaved, gravel roads, tree-filled woodsy terrain was delightful. Deer romped in the yard, raising themselves on their hind feet to reach fruit on the highest branches of the apple tree. To add the icing to the cake, the community is surrounded by state conservation lands surrounding it, extending its park atmosphere into the beyond.
Birds sang to me while I sat on the patio with a good book and cup of tea. Chipmunks and squirrels scurried across the grass and patio. The worst problem was the inability to grow veggies without the use of high fences, which would prevent the wild animals from eating the produce.
I relished the peace, on my patio, looking forward to the time we retired and lived here full time.
The distant sound creating a distraction was uninvited noise to my ears. Were the shots from nearby hunters? No, my daughter informed me. There is a shooting range in the nearby mountains.
Then there was noise from above. Helicopters. They were medi-vacs or military, but somehow their whirring blades didn’t belong in this setting. Neither did the noise of the occasional airplane, which brought reminders of Flight 93’s crash near Somerset at the top of the mountain (20.5 driving miles away). An unrealistic thought: Could it be happening again?
Sunday morning. Quietly sipping coffee and reading the newspaper, fighting with the cat to do so. Then the noise starts: lawnmowers, weed whackers… Worldly activities. Intrusive to the quiet and peace of the community.
The real world will intrude because the real world is intrusive. There is no cocoon, no escape. Most of the time one can relish the illusion that being inside the gates is safe, but then the reminders come—an unheard of event, a house break-in. Emergency vehicle sirens whining their warning, creating surround-sound, while rushing to an incident. Cars speeding on dirt roads while ignoring stop signs, making city-type warnings to kids a necessity.
LMB is as much of a cocoon as exists anywhere in the world—compared to other communities it’s a very safe place to live. I wouldn’t live anywhere else.
But yes, the real world will—and does intrude. How rude of it!
—written by Carolyn C. Holland August 2007
November 3, 2007
THE REAL WORLD WILL INTRUDE
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