Niagara Gazette — I originally wrote this piece back in 2005. In view of the recent surge of interest and investment in Niagara’s future, I thought it might be worth repeating, lest we forget from whence we come:
A lot has changed and a lot has remained the same in Niagara Falls since I originally left home nearly 35 (now 50) years ago. Returning for a family reunion in 1996, I was shocked to see the deterioration of my beloved hometown. Standing outside the United Office Building, I wondered what in the world had happened.
Once the towering pinnacle of achievement for our community, symbolic of our civic pride, our local version of the Empire State Building was vacant and decrepit. Its weather-worn hulk dripped rust from broken windows.
I walked familiar streets, visited old friends and discovered the United Office Building was just the tip of the iceberg. Things were worse than I thought, and I began to feel pangs of guilt. I was one of the nearly 50,000 people who had abandoned the Falls since the completion of the Power Project.
Maybe we could have prevented this, I thought, if only we had stayed. Silly me!
In subsequent years, I made frequent trips between Niagara Falls and Florida, where I had moved to be closer to my retired ailing parents who had moved into the perpetual sunshine to catch their breath after proudly raising their eight children in a city that had seen better days, but is now in a state of rapid decline.
The more often I visited, the more I began to notice the obvious.
Things seemed to be getting worse. The city I grew up in and loved continued to lose factories and jobs. People were leaving, especially young people, who saw no future here, no place to grow, no hope.