Sunday, May 21, 2006

For Many West Virginians, Leaving Is First Step Home - New York Times

For Many West Virginians, Leaving Is First Step Home - New York Times: "For three decades, Donna Briggs has worked at the West Virginia Welcome Center here not far from the Ohio border, eagerly greeting visitors entering her proud state but wistfully watching as much of the traffic flows the opposite way.

'People leave because they have to, not because they want to,' Ms. Briggs said. 'Looking over your shoulder and missing home is something West Virginians know a lot about.'

Ranked behind South Dakota as having the second smallest population growth of any state, according to 2005 Census Bureau estimates, West Virginia has struggled to hold on to residents since the early 1950's, when layoffs in the coal industry sent people elsewhere looking for work.

For West Virginians, the tension between the economic push to leave and the emotional pull to return plays a central role in the state's cultural identity."

Fascinating insights on my home state. I moved away in 1979 and only returned to see family and friends. I've been home more in the past year, with ill parents, than in the previous 25 years or so. Sometimes I think about going home too.


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