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Date: 5/26/2009

Although I don t often express myself publicly, I must write of the disappointment I felt after attending the May 18 Town Meeting in East Longmeadow.

Late in the evening Article 18 was presented, which would provide a land parcel for a local veteran and hero, Mark Ecker. Homes for our Troops and private donations would then build him a house on that parcel free of cost. I felt an overwhelming sense of pride in my town as I listened to Selectman Driscoll explain the article and speak so highly of Sgt. Ecker. This is truly the essence of small-town and community, I thought.

As residents came to the microphones to ask questions and voice opinions during the discussion phase, a woman stated her opposition to building on that lot; she wanted it to remain undeveloped. Several members in the audience booed. One person behind me loudly yelled Go home several times. Others yelled out things such as Hey lady, you ever been shot at? and Get the officer, implying that she should be arrested for voicing her opinion. That pride in my town that I had felt just minutes before had turned to embarrassment. Several of the residents that were booing and bullying this woman to submission were the same people who are donating time, materials and labor to building a home for Sgt. Ecker.

What bothered me most was the simple irony that these people were apparently blind to. One of the freedoms that Sgt. Ecker and all our troops are bravely fighting for is the same freedom that some residents were not willing to afford their fellow neighbor; freedom of speech without persecution. I wonder why they were acting in this way. Did they feel it was more patriotic to ostracize someone who has a differing opinion?

Fortunately, the article passed, although I am glad that Sgt. Ecker was not present at the meeting to witness this behavior.

When I got home I was telling my husband what had transpired at the meeting and my seven-year-old son overheard us talking. He said Mom, I have a solution. They can build a medium-sized house for the soldier and still have lots of trees for the animals to live in too. Then everyone will be happy.

My suggestion to the selectmen: Let the children attend the town meetings, leave the adults at home. Surely you will get more mature, rational behavior.

Mary Ellen Goodrow

East Longmeadow