W ITHOUT leaving their riverside town in rural Luzerne County, residents of Shickshinny can again shop for cereal, tailgating snacks and everyday staples at a grocery store – something they had been unable to do for 13 months.
Don't dismiss this news as trivial, something having only to do with foodstuffs for a few people in the boonies.
This is about people's resilience and the power of community.
It reflects an ongoing story occurring in West Pittston, Bloomsburg and other Pennsylvania places hard hit by the flooding of September 2011, where residents continue to work to reclaim something the rushing water threatened to take away: a sense of place.
Any strong community in which people take pride and want to live – even those small, unofficial communities nestled inside dauntingly big cities – typically contains many of the same elements: a park, a place to pray, a post office, a bank, somewhere safe for kids to play, a gathering spot to swap gossip and unburden souls, a school, some shops, eateries and a place to purchase food for stocking the kitchen cabinet and refrigerator.
Last year, Shickshinny practically lost it all.
The Five Mountain Market on the borough's "main drag" – its only market – got swamped, as did more than 25 other businesses. Residents, many coping with damaged houses, wondered whether they could muster the energy to recover and if those retailers upon which they depended would come back.
Most businesses did. They plunged in, betting that customers would return and reward their risk-taking.
As of Saturday morning – with the planned opening of a new Thomas' Market in the refurbished Five Mountain Plaza – another piece of the puzzle snapped into place.
Thomas' Market co-owner Chris Evans told a Times Leader reporter last week: "I've been in this business for 29 years now … and I've never had a municipality or a group of people so excited to have a business come to their town as the people of Shickshinny."
The narrative emerging from this and other Susquehanna River-bordering communities is not unique. Bloomsburg sopped up the mess and again orchestrated its fabulous fair. West Pittston continues to power through, too. It's an American tale, the comeback story.
And the basic formula is this: We become strongest when we support one another, when we think – and act – as community.
Residents, many coping with damaged houses, wondered whether they could muster the energy to recover and if those retailers upon which they depended would come back.