Narrative 2: “There’s Nothing Left”

It was 1993 when we moved up here. Me and my wife were born and raised right outside Philadelphia. My son’s born here so I’m a Sunburian now. My family still lives down there. I’ve had cousins move up here and stay a few years then head back. My family’s like, “you’re living in the boonies.”

Our area in Philly was starting to get bad with drugs and violence. We were like, “What in the world?” One of my cousins moved up here for a job. His boss called me personally and said, “I need a driver. You come highly recommended.” I was like, “I’m working right now. I have a wife and a lease.” He said, “You get up here. I’ll pay your lease and give you’s a place to stay.”

So here I came. 16 years ago Sunbury was a really nice town. Me and my wife could go for a walk at 2 in the morning. You can’t do that now. Education and home values are going down. People aren’t upkeeping their stuff and there are more robberies. They’re shipping people in from everywhere who aren’t the right people. They’re living on welfare. If you have problems, don’t ship them to another town because they’re going to start problems all over.

I believe in welfare if you need it: my plant closed down, I have no work – bam, you deserve assistance. But when you’re born and raised on welfare, never tried to do nothing, and teach your children to do the same damn thing, I don’t believe in that. If you never worked a day in your life you don’t need assistance, you need a freakin’ job.

I don’t appreciate them converting this into an inner city. That’s what they’re doing. There’s bulletin boards in New York: “Come to Sunbury. Start a new life.” So they do. I’ve asked people, what brought you to Sunbury? And they’re like, “A big billboard where I used to live.” The drug problem has gotten outrageous. Every time you pick up a check they should give you a urine test. I guarantee it’ll drop 70% of the people, because they’re addicts.

When I was a kid everybody smoked pot. Nowadays these kids ain’t smoking pot. They’re not going down to the river and having a bonfire or building a fort. These little kids are shooting, snorting heroin. I’m talking 13 year-old kids jumping people. What the hell’s going on?

It’s bad. Sunbury’s not a good place to live. It’s better than big cities like where we came from, but in another 10 years it won’t be unless the city gets itself together. It’s like our politicians have their priorities mixed up. Why did they pay all that money for the park renovation? Instead of building an amphitheater, they’ve got to stop the influx of riff-raff they’re sending in here. People need work. Don’t contract out when you’ve got people here who need jobs.

That’s why we’re looking to relocate again. Not far. I’ll never leave Pennsylvania. My wife takes care of handicapped people and loves her job, so I could move but she wouldn’t be coming with me. I’m looking for work at X Hospital. They saved me, they saved my wife, gave me my son, my externship, and I know a lot of people there. I feel really comfortable there. But we’re heading out where they haven’t been shipping anybody in lately.

I worked at a factory for 12 years, but I had enough. I wanted an education. So I started school and a year later my wife says, “Hon, I’m pregnant.” We were told we couldn’t have children. We tried for years. We had one pregnancy but it ruptured inside. She was hemorrhaging and the fetus, of course, aborted itself. So they said chances are you guys aren’t going to get pregnant. I started school and a year later she got pregnant. I was like “what?” What a time: I don’t work, I go to school. But everything worked out. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

School just cost me $30,000 out of my own pocket. No one would pay nothing for me because I’m a white male capable of working. They would not give me nothing, not one cent.

The job market around here is bad, real bad. The vacant building across the street used to be Coca-Cola. Doorcraft, gone. Will-Hold, gone. Holsum, gone. We need factories in here. We have all this unoccupied space. It’s a shame. If you don’t work for Weis you’re basically done. There’s nothing left.

I don’t want my son going to this school. It’s one of the worst in the country. It’s gotten worse because of the influx of children with the mentality: “Why should I work? They’re going to pay me to do nothing.” These people come and Sunbury gives them hand-outs. I pay a lot of money to live here. I paid school taxes for 16 years and never even had a child.

Sunbury’s rapidly diminishing but it has potential if they start cracking down. When me and my wife first moved here Market Street was thriving. There wasn’t an empty store. If you go there now, out of 8 storefronts I guarantee you 4 or 5 are closed. It’s a pathetic shame. It was so cool when we first got here. You could walk around. We walked everywhere.

I liked this area because I’m an avid hunter, I’m a fisherman, and everything I want to do is 5 minutes from town. I can jump a wall and go fishing if I want to. I can take my 10-speed and ride up the street and go hunting if I want to. There’s a lot of stuff in the city of Sunbury. We have our ice skating rink, we have roller skating rinks, we have a bowling alley, we have our social clubs, boating events, the marina, state parks – everything is conveniently located, whatever you need to do. Go shopping at Weis, if you want to go out to eat dinner we have little restaurants, you can get anything you want. We have a Walmart 10 miles away. The hospitals are close; we have three pretty much in this area. Everything is convenient. You don’t have to worry about nothing.

All my friends from home, they’re all dead. There used to be 6 of us, and I’m the only one who’s still alive. One of my cousins just OD’d l3 months ago: 19 years old, dead. Methadone clinics and halfway houses… that shit doesn’t fix nothing. They’ve all been through rehabs. It didn’t work for none of them.

Most of my friends are from around here now. When you work 2 to 12 everyday, it doesn’t give you much of a life to socialize. Former coworkers are my friends. A bunch were at my son’s party the other day. I have friends now from school, but–

I have resumes made up; I’m working on my cover letter now. I’ve updated my portfolio since my externship. I did all that stuff. Now I’m just kicking back, enjoying my son’s first birthday and taking a breather. I’ll be 45 tomorrow.