By Shaniese Ricketts
Once a thriving city filled with industry and opportunity, what remains of Wilkes-Barre hardly resembles its rich history. The glitz and glam of the “Diamond City” have dulled and rusted away. But the Public Square lights up at night with the twinkling lights roped around trees. The contrast of light and dark reflect the turbulent history this city has endured over the years.
In the nineteenth century, Wilkes-Barre was the industrial star of anthracite coal. Anthracite is black, hard, and dirty but for many people it meant a clean slate. The coal industry brought businesses and opportunity for young starlets and business men. The decline of the coal industry meant many businesses ventured elsewhere. The heart of Wilkes-Barre stopped beating; it turned black like the addiction that was responsible for its every beat. The decline of the coal industry was just one of the many plagues that Wilkes-Barre suffered. In 1971, Hurricane Agnes roared in the streets and destroyed everything in her way. The city wept in the wake of Hurricane Agnes; it was a cleansing of her soul.
The quietness in the air gives birth to new life for the city. The whispers of renovated businesses and new apartments give hope to the Diamond City. There is a gradual rethinking of Wilkes-Barre. The raining down of loss and destruction is replaced by the sunshine of life and promise. The city may not shine in the day, but it sparkles at night. The King’s On The Square sign illuminates the Catholic tradition and draws upon the eyes of visitors at night like the way Batman reports for duty upon seeing a bat signal.
There is a competitive wind in the air as two local colleges compete for more space in Wilkes-Barre. King’s College and Wilkes University share a long-lasting rivalry on the football field since 1996. The rivalry continues both on and off the football field as each college races to expand. King’s and Wilkes seem to be racing towards the Square like two parallel lines that should not meet. The building of King’s on the Square is a graceful win for the college in this relentless race. There is a quiet war being fought to make Wilkes-Barre shine again. King’s and Wilkes may be one of the few forerunners that are eager to bring new people and new life to the Diamond City.
Listen to the soft voices of the coal mines, smell the coal on their hands. Look at the streets and see the men and women of the past delight in her presence. Smell the promise of new life while you sit in the dark. She still shines in the midst of disaster. She still shines in the wake of new life. She still shines in times of sorrow. The dust has settled, but at night when the wind blows Wilkes-Barre shines bright.