By Rosalie Tirella
As Worcester, my hometown, the city in which I work, live and love grows dirtier, more violent, more gun-ridden, more drug-addled, more … un-(old)Worcester every day, I still find it surreal to read about the bad changes that we all experience as we make our way through our city: the daily shootings; the daily cache of guns or drugs found in cars, homes, apartments; the daily car crashes with pedestrians – old people, a mother and her two little children!, being hurled into the hinterlands; the plastic bags, garbage bags, ramshackle furniture, the refuse strewn all over our city streets; and the streets themselves, upon which everyone drives like they’ve just snorted a kilo of cocaine.
How did we get here ALL OF A SUDDEN, it seems? Who’s to blame? In the words of Marvin Gaye: “Who really cares? Who’s willing to try/to change our world …”
I have my answers. Poverty is reason #1 and its deadly tentacles many. No good paying jobs for our unskilled, of which we have thousands. A minimum wage that is still a joke. Apartments whose rents are too high and developers who exploit the exploited. The families: under the gun, sometimes hungry, sometimes angry. The abandoning, the confusion …
The state of our city and the future of our city …
The young ones.
They are growing up here, experiencing the Worcester of 2015.
They will continue to grow and learn here and most likely stay here.
So as Worcester seems to degenerate right before our eyes, we see the direct results and can look into the crystal ball.
This past December I saw a little girl – she may have been 9 or so – getting off a big yellow Worcester school bus and walking home in one of our neighborhoods. She walked apart from the other kids, her long thin hair unwashed and whipping in the wind, her flimsy jacket open and flapping wildly around her. Scrawny skinny. Not an ounce of baby or kid fat on her. She seemed oblivious to the cold as she plodded down the street. I could see she was BEAUTIFUL. To see such a beautiful young face pinched from the cold, sallow from hunger or illness is to cry for Worcester.
So I did!
I made sure to turn my head away, so she or her school mates wouldn’t see me crying. But I need not have worried. She marched on stoically, oblivious to the cars idling as they waited for the bus to pull in its STOP sign. She walked by, her mouth so serious, sad. Her world – THE WORLD! – unnoticed. She looked so unsteady in the wind and cold, I feared she’d collapse on the pavement! I wondered if her teachers sent her to the school nurse that day, gave her more food to eat at lunch, filled out the DCF social work paperwork to support/help a little girl like this. Probably not. There are so many in the Worcester Public Schools these days! She’s like all the rest … only more so! And she seemed so ephemeral, NOT THERE, alone and to herself. So easy to slip through society’s cracks, if you’re a quiet little girl …
And so this beauty walked home alone (I stopped the car and watched), with no friends bopping along side of her to gossip about the day, no waiting parent to take her by the hand and whisk her into a warm automobile, the way it is for some kids when the school bus drops them off at one of its designated stops, no older sibling waiting at the end of the street keeping a watchful eye on kid sis.
Nope. This child – one of the most beautiful children I have ever seen! couldn’t the world see this?! – walked on alone in a flimsy dress, knobby knees to the wind, opened jacket, closed heart … like a condemned prisoner walking to the gallows. Like a pint-sized Christian walking into the Coloseum to meet the starved and lashed lion, Romans leaning forward on their seats, waiting for the show to begin.
But “the show” was for me.
And I wondered: Where is this
Worcester girl’s childhood????