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  • SJ Cunningham

Learning from the stories

While the summer of 2020 has certainly not been ideal for traveling, it has given us an opportunity to explore the world--and the stories--that are closer to home. Over the past few weeks and over this Labor Day weekend, we were given the chance to take

some local adventures to places that we'd always planned to visit, but just never quite made it. Each of these adventures were unique in their own way, and certainly the time periods and circumstances around each were different; however, they had one thing in common--they were all made up of the stories of the people who experienced them. I mean, isn't everything about the individuals, at the end of the day?

Our visit to the Johnstown Flood Museum and the surrounding area gave us a good look into that fateful day. No one--not the residents of downtown Johnstown, the members of the South Fork Fish and Hunt Club, nor the ill-fated engineers or passengers on the trains that just happened to be passing through the area--could have known the fate that would befall them on the afternoon of May 31, 1889. But those over 2000 people who lost their lives that day, or whose lives were forever altered by the day's events must be remembered as a part of the story. Events the magnitude of the Johnstown Flood mean nothing without the people who were involved. I'm grateful for the opportunity to learn about them, remember them and honor that memory while acknowledging their stories.

Likewise our visit to the Flight 93 National Memorial was a chance to pay homage to those passengers who had boarded a very routine flight in Newark the morning of September 11. Less than two hours later, they were national heroes. While we won't ever know where that flight was headed in our nation's Capitol, we do know that without the collective bravery of those passengers, our lives may look very different right now. I hope that we continue to remember that bravery, and continue to tell that story.

Finally, we visited the former West Virginia State Penitentiary or the Moundsville prison, a location notorious for its inhumane treatment of the inmates between the years of 1886 and 1995. While acts of bravery or heroics did not abound in this location, it's important to acknowledge the individuals who were sent here and who, despite the most horrific of circumstances, lived their lives and survived as best they could. While we can't condone their actions or the reasons that these men and women were sent to this location, we can honor the will to live even when it may seem there is nothing left to live for.

In any case, these past few days have highlighted the fact that there are stories everywhere--in the everyday lives of ordinary men and women just like you and me--who never thought they'd wake up and experience what they did. These stories each and every day to each and every one of us. Maybe not on a grand scale or a historic scale. But there is a quiet success and bravery in waking up each day and living out our lives, second by second, minute by minute, hour by hour. Sometimes it takes a tragedy to remind us that ordinary people are every day warriors, fighting through a life that can cut you to the quick at any moment.

So here's to the people who woke up this morning and lived their lives. May you remember to honor your own story each and every day.

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