Three years ago I got an email about a job writing articles, my first job offer after hundreds of applications out of college. I cut my vacation in India short to start my reporting career at the Richmond County Daily Journal. I hit the ground running. Because I had little training, I imitated the people around me and developed my own style quickly, but I was rash and hotheaded and sometimes rude. I didn’t like to share my beats and I didn’t like anyone taking up my time. But patience settled in and I learned to be compassionate towards the one thing I learned mattered most: the community.
People ask me why this community thrives. Some say it’s the major highways that intersect here. Some say it’s the economic incentives and the political leadership. Others say it’s the central placement in the state. But I have come to learn that it’s the hope.
Factories closed down and left, and jobs left and so did young people looking for education. It seems like they left and went to Charlotte or South Carolina but people have come here from all over. Teachers come from Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Georgia and New Jersey. Even the County Manager himself came from Raleigh. How did Richmond County survive the economic recession, though? When the market crashed in 2009, the recession was already here. Richmond County had been dealing with harsh economic times for a while and was already taking on the challenge. That’s why the housing market is doing well here, and that’s why booming industries with major export to foreign countries feel welcome here.
Some say there is nothing here, but anyone who spends a few years here knows there are things to miss when you leave.
I’ll miss driving down U.S. 1 each morning, though I won’t miss the 45 minute commute from Southern Pines. But I won’t get to see Tommy Deese’s interesting mix of lamas, painted horses and miniature ponies grazing in the morning fog. I won’t get to see the blue heron that fishes in Drowning Creek or the morning crowd that gathers at Bo’s Pawn.
I’ll miss calling lunch orders in at Hudson Bro’s or Henry’s Uptown Cafe, and having people there recognize my voice and tell me, “Just give us about 10 minutes, baby.”
I’ll miss being able to walk to Rocking Trends Consignment Boutique to visit Amber and the pups, and blow a fraction of my paycheck on something cute to wear. I’ll miss the economic development exploration rides, walks on Ledbetter Lakebed, Rankin Museum and certainly the Ellerbe Farm Parade. I’ll miss my therapy trips to Hinson Lake, where escaping the office for half an hour to dip my feet in peaceful waters always washed the stress away.
And in the office I’ll miss the piercing call of the scanner and the woman who speaks with a rasp but never clears her throat, urging me to look at the call sheet and listen for the address to see if I can make it there before the roads are blocked with rubberneckers. I’ll miss all the inspiring, confusing, funny and sometimes rude phone calls that helped me grow my patience. I’ll miss the haunted building. I’ll miss knowing so many people in the county by name and I’ll miss the ease of the place, the calmness and the generosity. I’ve seen the “poor” people of Richmond County give millions of dollars for Discovery Place KIDS, countless fundraisers for organ transplant patients, mission trips and children with cancer, and that makes them rich.
Richmond County gave me patience, compassion, writing awards, and friends for life. I’ll never forget my trip to Washington, D.C., with 100 WWII Veterans, the birth of Frenchie’s miniature mule, my interview with Artimus Pyle or my skydiving present from my friends at the county. Thank you all for your support.