Even from afar, love for Philly remained unchanged

    In 1682, William Penn founded a city. He named that city Philadelphia, meaning philos, “love” and adelphos, “brother.” This later became Philadelphia’s great moniker: “The City of Brotherly Love.”

    In 1985, our family moved from the humble streets of Camden, N.J., to the even humbler streets in the Germantown section of Philadelphia. This became the place I called home.

    Harsh gang wars in the early 90’s tainted the city’s glorious title, sending my family to Atlanta in search of a more peaceful dwelling; shedding tears in departure. While I grew up, cuddled in the arms of southern hospitality, my city grew up, too.

    We elected our first Jewish mayor, Ed Rendell, in 1992, proving our openness to diversity. In 1993, we built our new convention center and rejuvenated our transportation hub — the Philadelphia International Airport — beginning one of the most significant revitalization periods the city had ever seen.

    In the years that followed, Philadelphia continued a pattern of growth and development, leading us to become one of the country’s premier cities by the late 90’s. In terms of entertainment, Hollywood chose our city as the backdrop for several films. This included the movie Philadelphia, starring Tom Hanks, which introduced our city to the world.

    Back in Georgia, we were growing homesick. A mere conversation about missing REAL Philly cheesesteaks, pretzels, and water ice prompted us to pack up everything we owned and return home. We came back home in June 1998, but our return was bittersweet.

    We felt everything had changed. And, in some ways, it had. Our airport had just unveiled the beautiful results of a near-$700 million improvement plan. The Port of Philadelphia celebrated its best year of international commerce flow. And new edifices stood in place of some of the old businesses we’d cherished.

    However, other things had not changed at all: like the view of the Schuylkill along East River Drive, an illuminated Boathouse Row, where we host the largest one-day regatta in the world, the William Penn statue atop City Hall, the Liberty Bell, and, of course, the cheesesteaks!

    Although we still have our challenges of eliminating violence, we work continuously toward restoring brotherly love.

    When we crossed the Ben Franklin Bridge, I rolled my window down, took a deep breath, smiled and said, “Home, sweet home.” Twelve years later, I’m still here, loving where I live.

     

    Queen Muse is a freelance journalist and a winner of an award given by the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists to college journalists. Comment on her essay below or send an e-mail to nwfeedback@whyy.org.

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