Bri Fleming mug

FLEMING

I used to very much dislike living in a small town.

Growing up, there was always “nothing to do.” We were always bored, and the small town life just never seemed glamorous enough. So after college, I fled south like the birds, only to quickly discover that I missed that small town I complained so much about.

Just within the past week alone, our community has experienced losses due to, what I was told, were COVID-19-related. Although I didn’t know these people personally, they are family members or friends of several people very close to me. And, to know those people are hurting so badly, hurts me, too.

These are goodbyes said way too young, leaving children and many loved ones behind, and crushing our small town’s spirit.

Throughout this pandemic, so much information and misinformation has circulated, messing with our heads and our hearts, and even turning some friends and family against one another.

But, one thing is for sure. When a death strikes our small community, there is nothing like the way people come together – the past couple of weeks have proved just that.

I have seen so many posts circulating on social media – whether it’s remembering a firefighter and a father, a spouse, a co-worker, a babysitter of local children, a high school friend to many – and those posts are inspiring.

What I’ve really noticed, though, is how people in our small little town flock to send their condolences and their prayers and ask how they can help, whether they knew the person or not, regardless of any opinion they may have about COVID-19 or the vaccine; none of that matters when death strikes our community. When so many are hurting, none of us know a stranger. We just want the hurt to go away, and we rally behind those who need us.

Because the truth is, we may not know those who leave us too soon, but chances are, we know someone who loved them.

I’ve seen a lot of divide over the past couple of years – entirely too much negativity – too much turning against one another. In heartbreaking times like these, I’m so grateful to live in the small town I used to run away from.

When things get unimaginably tough, I’m inspired by the strength in numbers, and those who set everything else aside to be “small town strong.”

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Brianne Fleming is a reporter for The Courier Express, focusing on Elk County and telling the stories of community members. She can be reached at: bfleming@thecourierexpress.com

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