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Tales from Utah Valley: 200 stories, 200 columns for the Daily Herald

By Laura Giles - Special to the Daily Herald | Oct 16, 2021

The giant flag is hung above Grove Creek Canyon's trailhead every July. (Courtesy Amanda Shaw)

This happens to be the 200th installment of my Tales from Utah Valley column in the Daily Herald. The first column printed in 2014 and since then, I have enjoyed sharing items of interest, perspectives from local residents on a variety of topics and experiences of others and myself, especially focusing on goings-on right here in Utah Valley.

In 2017, I wrote about my 100th column, reflecting on those many months of stories, experiences and people that were written about. Now, 100 columns later, many more stories and experiences have happened and more people have been met.

During the past 18 months, a lot of what we read about in the news has centered around the COVID-19 pandemic. This is also true for this column. In March 2020, when things were shutting down, people were scared and essentials were difficult to find in stores, I wrote about kindness in a time of unease.

On the Pleasant Grove Community Connection Facebook page, dozens of local residents were offering their help to others in the community. “If you are in need of food or supplies that you can’t find at the store due to the COVID-19 shortage, post below and allow us, as a community, the opportunity to help you,” reads a post, dated March 13, 2020. Other acts of kindness were experienced by many during this time.

On April 19, 2020, I wrote my feelings, as a teacher, about suddenly not attending in-person school. This had come as quite a shock to so many during March. At that time, many of us thought we would only be home for a couple of weeks.

Tabitha's Way food pantries in American Fork and Spanish Fork help to feed the hungry in Utah County. (Courtesy Tabitha's Way)

“I used to think it was too loud when 15 six-year-olds would tell me about recess all at the same time. Now it’s too quiet. I used to look forward to some alone time during the day. Now, I miss the fun chaos. But, even though it’s different now, the teaching and learning continues,” I wrote at that time.

Throughout those first few months of the pandemic, I continued to write about how people were helping others, how to support local businesses, the excitement of going back to school in the fall, suicide prevention during a pandemic and more. But, Covid is not all that’s been happening during the past 100 columns.

In October 2018 (and a few other times during the past two years), I wrote about banned books and censorship, as Banned Books Week occurs every year during the fall. As a book lover myself, I hate the idea of someone else dictating what I should or shouldn’t read. In part, I wrote, “When I read through the list of most commonly challenged books, I thought about what a shame it would be for some of them to not be read by others. Shouldn’t everyone get a chance to decide for themselves whether or not to check out such literary jewels as ‘Harry Potter’ by J.K. Rowling, ‘Bridge to Terabithia’ by Katherine Paterson, ‘Snow Falling on Cedars’ by David Guterson or ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ by Mark Twain at their local libraries?”

The best part of this writing job is that I get to meet and talk to so many different people. In July 2019, I talked to a few different people about how they feel about the United States flag.

Utah Valley resident Zulma Martinez de Lagrutta, who came from Venezuela a few years ago, had this to say: “As an immigrant, my own flag represents the love of a nation who is inside of my blood and the bravery of their people. Now here I cry, when I see my country devastated and where all the rights are violated. I feel love for one nation who provides me the opportunity that I cannot have in my country — freedom.”

Suicide prevention seems to be a recurring theme in my column as many in our communities work so diligently to save the lives of others. Getting the word out about this important work has been my privilege.

Over the years, those people who live right here in our own backyards are the ones who have really made an impact on me and who I love to write about. From Jeremy Hall, former Pleasant Grove resident who inspired many with his hope and optimism while fighting cancer to those who work tirelessly at our local food banks and pantries to feed the hungry to the sheriff’s deputies who I walked with through the canyon looking for the homeless who may need help to those who hang the beautiful flag in Grove Creek Canyon every July — thank you. Thank you for giving me so much to write about and for giving us all so much to think about.

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