Farewell, Alpine

Matt Hagerman

In 2016 my wife, Beckie, and our daughters, Eden and Beatrice, moved to Alpine from Baltimore, Maryland with open minds. Now we are leaving with open hearts.

When we first visited and decided to relocate here, we could not have imagined how eventful the next four years would be. Far West Texas was completely different from the endless sprawl we had left behind.

Over 10 years ago my sister-in-law, Amy, took a huge leap of faith when she came out here all alone. Her interest in sustainable agriculture took her from the hyperactive northeast to this quiet place in the Texas Alps. Her vision made it possible for us to follow her, years later.

With introductions to her friends and acquaintances, we began to quickly feel a part of the community, a process that takes a lot longer in other spots. I got to cover Viva Big Bend for a newspaper edited by her neighbors, we joined her church, and I began working at Celebration Liquors. I later accepted one of the best opportunities of my life when the Alpine Avalanche hired me in December 2017.

After living so close to Washington, D.C., for years, it’s ironic that Beckie and I were much more politically active in Brewster County than we ever were there. Protests against the Trans-Pecos pipeline gave way to marches for women’s rights and outrage over the treatment of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.

One protest my wife and daughter were a part of that I wasn’t was led by a group of Alpine High School students. They joined kids across America who knew that too little had been done about gun control since the Columbine shooting 19 years earlier on that day.

As an employee of Alpine High School, I had duties to attend to, but looking back, I wish I had stood by them in solidarity. They received more scrutiny and threats than I ever did when I stood in front of Railroad Park on Holland Avenue with a sign.

They had firsthand experience with the subject. In 2016, an active shooter and a prank caller created a traumatizing frenzy that began in a girls’ bathroom at the high school. Before the school year was over, I had begun substitute teaching there. The following fall, I became a special aide.

I’ve seen the class of 2020 have to grow up under difficult circumstances since the early days of their freshmen year. It isn’t fair, and I suspect that beneath all the kind words and tough words that they speak, there are some deep cuts that haven’t healed.

I found the best of Alpine by working at the high school. It was a team effort, but the secret to their success was simple – work ‘til you drop.

Each individual was given the freedom and trust to guide their own classroom and students. Every teacher that was also a coach found themselves working from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. almost every day, but so did the instructors who took on activities that don’t get as much fanfare.

With my parents and siblings already living in Colorado, our next move, just like our last move, is about being closer to family. Yet, as I turned in my keys this week to an old building that will hopefully be demolished soon, I left a family behind that I will never replace.

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