For a number of years now, I have been appalled by the degeneration of public discourse. It would seem that an awful lot of people these days go around carrying large chips on their on their shoulders, and feel duty-bound to willy-nilly place blame for their burdens on someone else. Why do our differences of opinion become public forums for personal peeves?
The debate over the Strasburg fire alarm seems to have degenerated for some people into a vendetta against so-called "newcomers" for whom its sudden wailing is, well, quite alarming.
I confess that I love the Strasburg fire alarm for all the reasons already stated by others in this newspaper. It makes me feel safe. It is part of the tradition and charm of the community. I'm used to it. However, I don't live or work in close proximity to it, and I am used to it. I can easily understand why many people who aren't used to it find it nerve wracking, ear splitting, headache inducing and downright scary. These are all perfectly natural reactions to something as loud as a fire alarm.
We were newcomers to Strasburg once, and probably still are in some people's minds. That was back in 1970. We chose Strasburg for our home not once, but twice. Having moved back to our native Louisville, Ky., in 1996, to care for elderly parents, we returned to Strasburg in 2003, and as luck would have it bought our old house back. So, we are double newcomers.
The active word in the above confession is "chose." We chose this place because we fell in love with it at first sight all those many years ago. What better compliment could a town get? I recently met a couple who were traveling on Interstate 81, stopped here for gas, thought they'd take a look around, fell in love, too and bought a house. My goodness! We should be welcoming them with open arms.
It is quite possible that some who have chosen to come to our town have done so because they love it at least as much as the natives do. Many have become active members of the community, its volunteer organizations, churches, governing agencies, and businesses, and have a vested interest in preserving Strasburg's traditions, history, beauty, vitality and charm. They offer new perspectives, bring new ideas and expertise. This doesn't mean they want to take over the town.
We were all newcomers once. Every descendent of the original settlers is also a descendent of an original newcomer, who by the way, displaced the native peoples who for thousands of years were the first newcomers.
Those who expressed dismay over the fire alarm only wanted their voices to be heard. What they got in some cases was demonization. Come on Strasburg! You're better than this. And newcomers, be sure to show respect for the locals whose wisdom, efforts and loyalty have made Strasburg the place where you want to live. A compromise can be made. Sound the alarm only for in-town emergencies. Move it up to the water tower. Shorten the number of blasts. But for goodness sakes, let's let go of the newcomer/blow-in versus local yokel silliness. We're all in it together.
I am a DeHaven on my mother's side, and when we first moved here I discovered that many DeHavens of the same family live in Winchester/Frederick County. My eighth great- grandfather, Edward DeHaven, was a Virginia Rifleman and fought in the Revolutionary War under Daniel Morgan. Edward DeHaven then settled in Kentucky. But here's the zinger: After we moved back in 2003, I was filing away some old papers and came across a DeHaven family tree. Guess what! The earliest entry is for Heinrich Funk of Zurich, Switzerland, who died before 1735. His son was Jacob Funk of Frederick County and his son was Henry Funk of Shenandoah County. Henry Funk's daughter was Mary. Mary's great-grandson, William Bowmer, married Margaret Sterrett, whose great-grandfather was Edward DeHaven. If you didn't get that, I'm related by marriage to the Funks of Shenandoah County. My friend and neighbor, Liz Hupp Schillinger, is originally from Illinois, but low and behold, after she moved here some years ago she discovered that she's directly related to the Hupps of Strasburg!
So you see? Maybe some of us "newcomers" are really just homing pigeons who took awhile to get back to the nest.
Maggie Maloney, Strasburg