Taking Back My Town
High School football games are the only way to spend a Friday night in the fall. There is one, crowded, main road that’s nearly impossible to drive down on Sunday afternoon due to after-church traffic, and a Saturday Farmer’s Market where you are sure to run into at least one person you know. It’s never considered odd to say hello to a stranger, and your favorite coffee shop is also a tanning salon. The family business is probably farming, and everyone knows about 4-H and FFA. That’s what small town life is about. That’s what it is like to live in Chillicothe, Ohio.
Chillicothe is a town of about 21,000 people, located roughly 50 miles South of Columbus. A town with a rich history and even richer soil. A town that, until a couple of months ago, never made headlines in anything other than the Ohio Country Journal.
Due to suspicions of a serial killer said to be responsible for six missing women, four of which have been dead, this little town is making headlines in everything from The Huffington Post to The Washington Post, and has even gained the attention of the FBI. A town that had no reputation a month ago now has a terrible one.
One news blog referred to Chillicothe as “Ohio’s Run-Down Ex-Captial” in an article about the suspected serial killer. Chillicothe is “just another notch on the Rust Belt, afflicted by the same old problems of drugs, poverty, and unemployment,” according to The Washington Post.
I was raised in Chillicothe, educated in Chillicothe, and never once have I thought of the town as run down. While my beloved hometown may also be home to drug addicts and prostitutes, we are not the only town to face these issues. Chillicothe is facing danger and fear at the hands of a deranged killer, and the last thing this town needs is to be degraded by media outlets looking to make a dime from a story of a hick-town gone wild.
The streets of Chillicothe are painted with the beautiful scenery of the Appalachian foothills, home to many thriving small businesses, and filled with history that lies at the foundation of Ohio. It is a close-knit community, where it is common to know your neighbors. In this town, I have always felt safe.
People trust one another. People love one another. But this small town harmony is being threatened by the one thing that has the power to make even in the most level-headed person insane: fear.
I blame this killer, causing widespread fear, for diminishing the faith in humanity that is so rare in other parts of this country, but so plentiful in Chillicothe. I blame this killer for causing us all to question one another, and our community itself. There is one person to blame for the fear and mistrust. One individual. Not the town itself.
In the midst of this fear and confusion, I encourage others to not let the media’s degrading portrayal of Chillicothe to effect the way they view it, to hold onto their faith in humanity, and remember that the actions of one individual do not reflect the actions of a community at large. This fear can open our eyes and lead us to become more cautious, and safe. But we must not allow it blind us to the good that still exists within our community.