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Swannanoa Should Not Just be a Temporary Home

by Micah Wilkins, Editor-in-Chief

Growing up in my hometown, there were certain things that you just knew. How you learned these things, where the information came from, was a mystery. Maybe you were born with the knowledge. Or maybe you just picked things up along the way.

You knew that no one ever really went downtown except for tourists. You knew that Troost Avenue split the city in half—one side was dangerous and scary, the other was home. You knew how to predict a snow day, and how the air smells before rainfall.

I’ve been doing some research about the Swannanoa River lately. I read about it flooding in 2004. The water rose 20 feet above its normal water level, the third highest record ever set. I wonder what it would have been like to be here during that flood, or perhaps to talk about it after the fact, to reminisce.

When I was a kid, I remember experiencing one of the coldest Midwest winters ever. An ice storm blew out the power in most of the city for days. I remember huddling up in a pile of blankets with my siblings and my neighbors, playing board games by candlelight. It was several years ago, but it still comes up now and then.

I wonder if the 2004 flood was similar, if it’s talked about by the locals, if they resented the damage done, or if they’re still amazed by the impact the tiny creek can have.

I would like to know what it was like to have grown up here, in this place that has been morphing into a home for me for the last three years. What information would I have grown up knowing here that I’m missing now?

There is a bill that’s been introduced in the North Carolina General Assembly that would tax North Carolina parents whose children vote in another district, effectively disenfranchising students with college addresses. This comes after the the Buncombe County Commissioner race (and the party control of the Commission) was flipped by votes from Wilson students.

“The courts have quietly made an exception so students can do this even though the vast majority of them never stay in that college town after school,” said one supporter of the student voting restrictions.

I would like to have a brain full of moments from this place, of the 2004 flood, of growing up among mountains rather than in the plains. But I didn’t grow up here. I moved here for college. And who knows where I’ll be after graduation. But for now, I’ll settle for the three years of moments that I already have stored in my memory, of walking by the river with Madeline before she left school to play music, of the rhododendron blooming, of searching for salamanders and holding one for the first time, of falling in love. I will remember when Amendment One passed. I will remember when it snowed in March (twice). I will remember when our ballots were disputed in a local race. I will remember vegan mac and cheese and radical book stores.

I only have three years of moments built up in my head. Compared to a life span, it seems insignificant. But now, these memories are the most vivid. And perhaps they will continue to grow. And perhaps I will graduate and decide to stay.


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