Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

January 13, 2013

I can see the beauty of Bluefield

By JAMIE PARSELL
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD — Take a sad song, upload a few black and white pictures and you can call any city in the U.S. a dying, forgotten relic of the past. Even the most vibrant and active cities in the country can look in despair through a camera and sad music.

On Jan. 1, a new video about the city of Bluefield was posted on YouTube. The author shows photo after photo of empty storefronts and deserted streets. The video lasts six minutes; photos are interrupted with paragraphs about the city. The author describes Bluefield as a once beautiful, vibrant and proud city and tells viewers the city is gasping for help.

There are empty buildings scattered downtown and dozens of signs hanging in storefronts. Businesses have closed their doors. We know. We see it everyday on our commute to work and home. Do we need another reminder, one that is six minutes long, about the changes in the city of Bluefield?

No, we don’t. And that is the reason why I took offense at the video. As a native of southern West Virginia, I grew up in Princeton. However, I commute to Bluefield every day for work. I drive Bluefield Avenue every day. I visit the banks downtown and every week I look for new books at the Craft Memorial Library. I see the current state of Bluefield and the old black and white photos of a busy city, but I am not stringing them together with sad music. Am I doing my part? I hope. I am working in Bluefield, covering stories of the area. I am shopping, living and reading in Bluefield and the surrounding towns.

I want to pause and question the lack of positivety. Never once did the author mention the region, or the “Team Blue” initiative to promote unity and citizenship. Bluefield State College also desires to bring college students back to the downtown area. While these projects and many others are not always visual, there is still work going on — behind the scenes. I think officials and long-time residents of Bluefield understand the current economic situation of our cities and across the nation and are trying to find a possible solution. And every town, city and community faces unique situations, whether it is forgotten buildings or the crime rate of bigger metropolitan cities.

I tend to think of this area as a region. I grew up in Princeton, attended college in Bluefield, Va., and work in Bluefield. Many don’t see the correlation, but I do. I am connected to all three through work, education and home. I know my hometowns, including all the local stores and businesses.

The video states there is only one grocery store in Bluefield on the West Virginia side. That is fact. But travel less than 10 minutes in almost any direction and one will find other businesses. And the one grocery store in Bluefield? It has 10 other locations in the region.

So far, more than 2,000 viewers have watched the video. Some have left comments, defending Bluefield or sympathizing with the past. However, it is not the photos of empty buildings that bother me the most. It is taking away the beauty of southern West Virginia and its town. Maybe I try to find the good in everything, but what is wrong with finding beauty in unexpected places? Visit Bluefield in the summer and see flowers hanging like mini waterfalls throughout downtown. Watch a sunset set fire to Bluefield Avenue, turning the sky delicious shades of orange, red and yellow. Fix your eyes on East River Mountain during the fall. Walk through city park, listen to the Blue Jays score a homerun or see folks gather together for high school football games. Grab a candy cane at the entrance to the Holiday of Lights during Christmas.

Bluefield isn’t just buildings or streets. It is community and faith, and people with a desire for change and growth. And that is beautiful. I can’t tell readers what the future holds for this city, or neighboring towns. I can only have faith and keep seeing the beauty in our part of the Mountain State.

Jamie Parsell is the lifestyle editor at the Bluefield Daily Telegraph. Contact her at jparsell@bdtonline.com or follow on Twitter @BDTParsell.