Niagara Gazette — With a country as vast as our own, and a world as diverse as it, I have long discovered the value of having most of my heroes being local.
Most are; and here is why.
Attached to this golden band, the treasure of blessings that is our region, there spangled are the tiny diamonds that we see, but we fail to realize their worth.
Three such gems glitter among the blue diamonds of our Niagara Falls Police Department. They are Kevin Henderson, Tommy Caldwell and Joel Smith; the latter two being of special significance to me.
Let me digress for a moment to bring clarity to the reason why these men are heroes of mine.
African-Americans, who are the age of my Aunt Charlie Gainer, struggled through the heartaches of the racism that once had its rusting iron fist tightly gripping the throat of this nation. She was born a mere three months after, and a three-hour drive, from the great civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King. She experienced much of the struggle against which King fought.
As a toddler, our family moved from Alabama to Harlan County, KY — the poorest county in America. After her dad, my grandfather, had attempted to form a black coalminers union, and had been beaten and left for dead, the family hurriedly packed and moved to McDowell County, WV — the second poorest county in America.
Theirs was a world of segregation. Those like her would look towards the dark, western faces of the coal-filled hills at their corner of Coretta, and they would pray for a rising, golden, eastern sun that would shower favor upon them and loosen the grips of prejudice.
For those West Virginians and others, our family later moved to Niagara Falls; and for that generation, King was the brightest of the glowing, golden rays that shimmered hope atop the ridges that announced the coming of their rising sun. In the dimming days of their lives, they would perceive that sun to be the nation’s first black president, Barack Obama.