The Huntington Misconception

No, I’m not from here, but I feel like I am. Now that I am working in Huntington and especially since I work with many local businesses I am constantly asked if I am from here. I always smile and say, “No, but I’m from just down the road.”
I grew up in St. Albans, W.Va., which is 45 minutes away from downtown Huntington. When I was growing up and honestly, until I decided to go to Marshall University, Huntington to me was the Barboursville Mall. St. Albans is much closer to Charleston, and I didn’t have any family that lived in Huntington, so literally my first visit to the actual city was for my freshman orientation. It’s funny, but the only hesitations I ever had about my decision to join the Herd had been given to me by my high school teachers, peers, and parents. When asked where I was going to college I would say, “Marshall” and they would say, “Oh, that’s nice, but please be careful in Huntington,” or something like, “You better bring pepper spray and don’t go ANYWHERE alone.” I was nervous to say the least.
When I moved here during my college years, I was very paranoid, I didn’t venture much from campus and my roommates went home every weekend in true “suitcase” campus style. Sometimes I would go home as well, but I remember distinctly making myself stay most weekends. I had moved to a college city and I was NOT going to go home every weekend and never actually make a life for myself here. I refused to not have the college experience. So, in my later years of college, I was going downtown more, I made friends with many locals and I was involved in organizations on campus that kept me occupied and grew my friend circle.
By the summer before my senior year of college, I landed an internship with Bulldog Creative Services, and as I met more and more people in the community, my Huntington “world” became smaller and smaller. What didn’t change, though, were the perceptions my friends and family back home had of Huntington. The only things they heard about Huntington were the various drug and crime stories shown on the local news stations. I would come home and talk about the latest businesses opening downtown, all the local stores I shopped at, and all the amazing things the Mayor was doing. I was always talking about how they needed to visit, and see what Huntington actually is. I talked about it so much that anytime the Charleston Gazette ran a feature story about Huntington, the article was lying on my bed when I came home.
As I told more people about my problem, they had similar stories. It’s a common misconception about this city. It used to be booming, and then, it had a downfall, a drug epidemic, a crime outbreak, and so on. But when I came here, I didn’t see that; I didn’t experience this “scary” city that the news reports about all the time, but, to be blunt, I also wasn’t an idiot. I didn’t go out by myself at night and go looking for trouble, so I didn’t run into any. I’m not saying crime isn’t happening (it happens everywhere, by the way), but I’m saying if you’re smart and if you want to treat this city like an average citizen, it’s actually a really cool place to be.So I’m writing this to say, let’s stop spreading this misconception. Please come live, work and make an effort to enjoy this city before you talk negatively about it. Huntington is coming alive, and it’s because its leadership and its citizens believe in it. They are making no little plans for this community, and the best part is Huntington doesn’t want this to just be about them, it wants it to be about the whole state of West Virginia. Our beautiful state is in need of new life, and I believe it’s starting right here. This misconception will be defied; just wait and see. #MakeNoLittlePlans