The March issue of Boston Magazine has a scathing article about the City of Lawrence penned by “novelist, short story writer, essayist, critic, investigative journalist…” from Methuen, Massachusetts – Jay Atkinson entitled “City of the Damned” wherein he describes Lawrence as “the most godforsaken place in Massachusetts” and replete with details and interviews he says back up his view. One of his sources Fr. Paul O’Brien says “It’s like the Wild West.” Since the story raised the roof on the Boston Mags Twitter and Facebook accounts and in the comments section of the article, Lawrence City Councilor Dan Rivera was asked to respond as to why Lawrence isn’t a damned city. His words are posted on the Boston Dailey blog. Here are some exerpts and a link to Rivera’s full comment and a link to the original Atkinson article – it is a must read.
If Lawrence is a city of the damned — as you state in “City of the Damned” from the March issue of Boston magazine, piling on with many other media outlets to paint the City of Lawrence as a horrible place — it is the damned hardworking, the damned hopeful and the damned resilient. While your piece makes us out to be damned of our own doing, the real news is that we are standing at all…
Our crime is up because we have watched over $11 million dollars in State aid evaporate while many of the poverty programs that concentrate poor people in
places like Lawrence have not…
Our schools are failing, yes, because of the actions of our former superintendent and neglect from our current and former mayor and former school board, but also because of the effect of the education reform law, that poured millions of dollars in to Lawrence while centralizing power in the superintendent…
Finally, when I think about the many meanings of the word “damned,” I will tell you many of us that call Lawrence home do not feel “condemned or doomed,”
especially to “eternal punishment” for living here; and I hope that your publication was not saying that Lawrence and its people are “detestable or
Many of us will continue to work to make Lawrence better — and damn anyone that thinks they can stop us.
Link to the full Rivera response here.
Jay Atkinson is no stranger to locals and readers of this blog. He has written about Lowell-born writer Jack Kerouac and includes among his other writings – “City in Amber” – a novel about the city of Lawrence. Check him out here on his official web site.