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Letter to the Editor

September 04, 2009

Getting to the heart of the matter in the city



To the editor:

The heart of our city, the square in Downtown, lost a fine resident this past week.

Belinda Whittington, 51, who resided in Room 802 of the Alexander House, passed away from unknown circumstances.

I knew Belinda very well. Almost every day, she visited my coffee shop across the way and though she said she had a "bad ticker," she always ordered something with a kick - a "Misty Morning," aka "Shot in the Dark," aka "Fog Lifter," aka "Red Eye" - coffee with a shot of espresso.

She stood in front of the library for eight straight hours the day before elections, with one of my signs in one hand and a "Shot in the Dark" in the other (my political competitors might notice the irony).

Belinda was a beautiful friend and a beautiful person.

But Belinda had "demons," as she would put it, that spoke to her every day. She fought her demons with her Lord by her side, believed Jesus would help see her through - and I have no doubt He did. Still, I grieve for Belinda's passing and I hope her demons are at rest. And as I grieve, I wonder how many people face the same demons each day. How many people living right across the street - right across the square, right across from you and me - face demons that even their camaraderie and care for each other cannot battle?

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We cannot continue to ignore those who are elderly or who struggle with disability, disorder or demons. I do not fault the individuals who tirelessly assist our disadvantaged. The social workers, case workers, doctors, nonprofit co-ordinators and volunteers are passengers in a mechanized political vehicle that drives us to maintain and not fix, to bandage and not heal. They are subjects of a system and I do not blame them. As an elected official and thus legislative member of this system, I instead blame myself.

What some fortunate sons would consider the lower denominations of our society are not exceptions to an otherwise rosy reality. These individuals, as all individuals, forge our reality. Our city, as the rest of society, might be considered a body. Each aspect of our city is an organ and all organs are interdependent toward the continuation of life. If one organ fails, the whole body fails.

Belinda always said she had a bad ticker. But to me, a bad ticker in the heart of our city means our city has a bad ticker. We need to do everything we can to rehabilitate our city center; outside of attracting businesses and supporting the arts, we must consider the sociopolitical illnesses that plague our town and how we can truly heal them. In Belinda's absence, this will be my mission.

Ashley Haywood
Hagerstown City Council

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