Unless you are living under a rock, by now you’ve surely heard of Garner, North Carolina, thanks to 17-year-old Scotty McCreery who is one of two finalists vying for the American Idol title. And some of you might be thinking that Garner sounds familiar or you might even recall why it made national news nearly two years ago.
It seemed a bit ironic that the town of Garner’s best news in recent years — Scotty’s advancement to the final round of Idol — was featured on the front page of yesterday’s The News & Observer while the town’s worst news was featured on the front page of section B. Perhaps more ironic is that the final closing of the snack production plant in Garner will take place next week as many of us in North Carolina wait to see if our local star is named the big winner.
I was there that June day, just hours after an explosion damaged the plant and killed four people. Sadly, I’ve had the opportunity in my life to learn that standing in front of a scene like this or witnessing first-hand the effects of natural disaster creates a mental snapshot intertwined with emotions so overwhelming that the experience is hard to explain and can never be forgotten.
In the days following the explosion, we waited to hear the news. We prayed for those hospitalized. We cried for the families of those who lost their lives. No, I’m not a Garner citizen, but in nearby Raleigh, I couldn’t shake the images in my mind. I know that I’m part of a larger community that sympathized with Garner residents and town officials we seemed to get to know due to their frequency on our local news stations.
And yesterday’s paper reminds us, that for Garner residents, it still isn’t over. According to The N&O, the plant employed thousands of people since it opened more than 40 years ago. There were about 900 workers at the site when the explosion happened, and the approximately 200 remaining employees will finish their work this week or next.
While nothing will ever take away the pain for Garner residents, doesn’t it just seem that they need something positive? Doesn’t it seem that Garner could really use a Hometown Hero? I watched American Idol last week, and I honestly believe that Garner gave Scotty the best hometown welcome I’ve ever seen on the show. Tweets popping up during the broadcast indicated lots and lots of local support for Scotty and a sense of pride coming from Garner.
It has been a long two years for this small town. It has been persistent, humble and not afraid to show the world its values…hmmm, kinda sounds like an American Idol finalist. I believe Idol judge, Randy Jackson, when he says that Scotty is in it to win it. I think Garner is, too. I’m rooting for both!