LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
Becoming a journalist seemed like the logical thing to do in college, since words have always been my thing. I wrote award winning poems in elementary school and short stories in high school sappy enough to make your mother cry. Professors in college began to ask me to stay after class so that they could talk about how well I wrote my assignments, and to try out a journalism degree if I was undecided on my major of study.
As a senior, I had my sights set on Nashville, Tenn. or Seattle, Wash. somewhere artsy that would fit my personality, but I never imaged that I’d end up landing a job 43 miles from home. As a reporter for The Sentinel-Echo, I arrived to my first day on the job only to be asked by Denis House, the sports editor, “What do you have for the front page?” I immediately felt like I was in a canoe without a paddle, and frantically began wading through papers and phone calls to come up with something worthy of the devoted Sentinel readership. With success, I continued to generate front page news content, relevant to the locals and interesting enough for the retirees reading at home to learn a new thing or two. I’ve traveled to practically every border, holler or “tater knob” of Laurel County, with no story left abandoned. I can also tell you places you should never venture to, compliments of riding shotgun with the Laurel County Sheriff’s Department.
I’ve had the blessing of sharing the life stories of war veterans young and old, bone chilling narratives of cancer survivors who were expected by doctors to be pushing up daisies by now, and light-hearted love tales of childhood sweethearts who found each other after 50 years only to re-marry. I’ve watched houses burn down, car accidents turn into fatalities and a tornado touch down in the most unsuspecting of places.
Although Laurel County doesn’t completely constitute as a part of our nation’s southern region, southern hospitality prevails. It’s a rare occasion that I’ve ever felt out of place or lost, despite my Michigander origins. In my time at The Sentinel-Echo I believe I’ve met at least 5,000 people, I may not remember names too well, but I always remember faces. As an outsider studying this community like it was my job (because it was), I’ve made quite a few pleasant discoveries. First and foremost, you have, in my opinion, the finest law enforcement, EMS, fire fighters and emergency responders that exists in the state of Kentucky. From the crack of dawn to midnight, they are always ready to respond to your unpredictable and life altering emergencies. Second of all, the Laurel County school system is a respectable institution to be proud of, and as I’ve walked through the halls of every elementary, middle and high school, I’ve often found myself to be envious of the opportunities they have that I did not at their age. Third, you have a beautiful downtown that is only eye-catching but is also progressing, and is beginning to make a grand name for itself. I’m excited to see the direction in which our local leaders will take the community next. Over two and a half years following my first day at the newspaper, I can truly say that I haven’t regretted a minute of it. But there comes a time for everything, and for now, it’s time for me to take on a new challenge. Words have always been my thing but I also have quite a few other skills up my sleeve that need the chance to be perfected. No worries though, you still may catch sight of me while I’m out and about in town, I’m not about to leave this exceptionally pleasant dwelling of southern hospitality just yet. The Lord has much more in store for me here.
As one of my favorite writers C.S. Lewis would say, “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”
Stay classy Laurel County.