Like many, I was stunned Friday (July 6) to learn that a man was shot and killed in cold blood in the North View section of Clarksburg. Unlike many who may be reading this blog, it was personal – damn personal.
As many of you know and others do not, I’m from Clarksburg. I spent the first 31 years of my life living in the North View section of that city. Because of that, and because of the fact the shooting took place near the bakery in North View, I’m not only familiar with that section of the neighborhood, it’s a place I’m still going to as I’m entrenched firmly in middle age.
It’s on that corner I and dozens of others park our cars and head to the bakery after Sunday morning church services. Good folks, by the dozens, show up to get fresh hot bread and a pepperoni roll or six. Individuals of different faiths congregate after congregation for a little goodwill with their neighbors, outsiders and anyone else that happens to find their way into line, whether they go to church or not.
This type of generous interaction is the North View I know and remember. It is the North View of my youth, which isn’t unlike the place many of you reading this grew up or many places in Bridgeport today.
For me, North View has been an emotional sanctuary. It is a place where almost all of my childhood memories come from and a place where I created friendships that last to this day. The area where the July 7 murder took place is about 15 blocks from my home. Despite that distance, it was a place where for half of my sophomore year in high school I caught the school bus to Liberty High School. It is a place that I passed either on foot or on bicycle hundreds of times as a kid.
Distance was never an issue to our parents growing up in North View. They knew that there were too many good folks – most they had never met – that would be keeping an eye out for any kid no matter whether they were common to that section of North View or not. With an unofficial neighborhood patrol, most parents let their children go well beyond yelling distance and only had to know roughly where you were going to be; and that was well before the time when mobile phones even existed, let alone had GPS systems in them.
North View was a place of good times. I still speak fondly of it to this day and even take part in an annual Labor Day reunion at North View Park where those from far away return and those who never left re-acquaint. Folks that have gone away never forget North View, primarily because they don’t want to.
Now, I’m not so sure if those living in that section of this Harrison County city will try to wipe their memories of this little community out of their minds. While murders happen everywhere, including Bridgeport, this appears to be a cold-blooded shooting with a foothold in drugs.
You see, somewhere in the past 15 years and maybe even a little earlier than that, North View went from tranquil community to a rural gangster’s paradise. Certainly not to the level as glorified on the big screen or in the big city, but the manner in which things have went from total peace to a somewhat uneasy form of chaos is something that should keep all of us in all of our respective neighborhoods on guard.
While others may differ, I believe North View is suffering from a changing of the guard. The old guard that had lived there for decades, often times inheriting their homes from their own family, is dying off. Many of the younger children often have no vested interest in the community and have sold off the property or turned it into rental housing. What has resulted, in my eyes, is a new wave of residents with many of them having zero ownership to what the community represents. I can't vouch for landlords since I don't know a single one of them, but too often - and once is too often - the only ID required in a background check involves the face of a dead president looking at them on a piece of currency. Add to that a new wave of drug dealers, drug addicts and the associated problems that come with it and you have a situation ripe for what transpired on that corner in recent days.
After about 600-plus words you may be wondering what this has to do with Bridgeport. Well, nothing and everything.
While the demographics between North View and Bridgeport probably don’t mirror one another, let me assure you the quality of life, the camaraderie between neighbors and overall caring of property was for years something everyone was proud of. That’s something any neighborhood with any quality of living has as a common denominator. In North View, where my brother still lives, it’s going the other way.
And let me be very clear for those who don’t think something like this is impossible of happening in a section of Bridgeport - you’re kidding yourself.
Drugs are here. They have been for years. With Bridgeport sitting at the intersection of Interstate 79 and U.S. Route 50, it’s also sitting on an intersection on the national drug highway. Couple Bridgeport’s convenient location for drug dealers with issues involving prescription drugs, dope and the insanely disgusting new craze involving bath salts that almost every community has and I hope you understand why I draw a parallel of concern and that you do, too.
Again, if you don’t think drugs are here, you’re kidding yourself. It’s been almost four years since I last did an interview with the local drug task force. At that time, the official I talked with confirmed there were three crack houses in the city limits and four individuals who were utilizing the city’s hotel system for drug distribution.
Although that may have changed since my sabbatical from journalism,if it did chances are best that it only changed in location. To think that the drugs have just gone away is to think with a closed mind and to view things with tunnel vision. In other words, our citizenry has to stay vigilant, work with law enforcement and understand that things – unfortunately – take time to alleviate. The time between reporting potential drug dealing from areas and the time something is actually done often is way too long for many folks to be comfortable with That’s not law enforcement’s fault, but it’s the system in which our men and women in uniform have to work. And for anyone that doesn’t think those folks want the streets rid of drugs, once again, you’re kidding yourself.
Let me be clear that this isn’t a bashing of my old neighborhood. I jokingly say “I’m North View for Life,” and, when I think about it, that’s not a joke. Now, though, I know that my neighborhood has fell victim to leaches and other scum that took advantage of trusting, caring people that had set up homes in a community for decades. My old neighborhood can certainly turn things around, but the horse is out of the barn and getting it back in will be much more difficult than had the horse only needed to be calmed down inside it.
Bridgeport can avoid that. How? I don't have a definitive answer. I can only say to stay vigilant. Do whatever you can to make sure your memories of your neighborhood are as positive as mine.