So today we got a proper southern introduction into the town of Pulaski and the surrounding area. We took an economic tour of the area as well as stopped in the new Ratcliffe museum. We learned so much that really put into context for us why we are here and why what we are doing matters.
At the Ratcliffe, I GOT TO RING THE BELL IN AN ANTIQUE FIRE TRUCK, we learned about the amazing people, past and present, that make this community what it is. We learned that Pulaski is quite possibly the unluckiest town in America because almost every important building in town has burned down at some point (some of them even twice). But, and at the risk of sounding so cliche, the town rose like a Phoenix from the ashes each time on the back of people like John, the man who showed us around the museum. To see people like him, and Eric, and Buz fight to preserve the history of this town when most would have just walked away, really made you appreciate the love these people have for their community and made me even more excited to serve in this amazing community. This is a town worth fighting for (sung to the tune of Mulan’s a girl worth fighting for).
Then we drove around the area and saw all the abandoned factories that use to be the economic engine of the area. Then, even more upsetting was the damage and carnage left behind by the tornado that hit three years ago. The only thing more upsetting than all of that is knowing that in the richest country in the world we can’t even help out a town recovering from a natural disaster (this is something that I had to take quite a bit if time to calm down from).
The thing that stuck with me most was the similarities that Pulaski had to so many places that I know. When I see the blight in the aftermath of the tornado I can’t help but think of Springfield. When I see a once proud industrial down filled with abandoned buildings and empty storefronts I can’t help but think of my hometown of Ware, MA. These are not problems unique to Pulaski, however, the solution will be. We must abandon the idea of one size fits all policies and the notion that what works in one place will work in others.
The best part about this tour is that it gave us all a sense of purpose for what we will be doing this week. When we are rebuilding homes we know it’s because we need to help where the federal government will not. When we hand out food to those who can’t afford it we know it’s because these industries left to find cheaper labor and left these people with nothing (NOT because they are “lazy” or want to live off of public assistance). When we help kids with homework, or just play games with them at the after school program we know it’s because these schools, and education are the only things that will save these kids from suffering the unfortunate fate of their parents and give them a hope at repairing their community. Lastly, we know that when people thank us, with a smile, for doing what we may believe to be insignificant, it is because they realize that not everyone has forgotten about them and that there is hope for this lovely little town that could: Pulaski (pronounced pew-laski), VA.
I am living Pulaski